Read to Write

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We have to read to write. It’s that simple. If you want to write a fiction, read good novels. If you want to write poetry, read good poetry.

Reading serves as a form of mentorship, especially if we read as writers, and read good writing. Reading provides rich fertilizer for your own writing.

Writers need to read what they like, what they find stimulating, what other people find stimulating. This will improve a writers writing.

Reading in our genre, and outside of our genre, will give us an idea of the diverse compositional structures that exist and are available for us to use, and use well. For an ode’s structure, read “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” by Keats. For historical fiction, try Real Estate by Kathryn Holzman (Propertius Press, 2020.) For grief or illness poetry, try Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press, 2021.) For a memoir try, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper, 2016.)

I will be blogging on Thursdays, with announcements, as they come up, on Tuesdays.

Langston Hughes and Spring

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“Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go
Life is a barren field frozen with snow.”

–Langston Hughes

I live in the Northeastern United States and we are leaving winter behind and moving into spring. Green things are starting to pop out of the ground and the trees have small bursts that will be leaves. As a poet, I like to take out what I’ve written over the winter and see what can be used in a manuscript or for a journal submission. So I hold onto my dreams, my writing, and figure out what is worth publishing.

Some writers, like Mary Gordon, write pen on paper. I need a computer. But I need to revisit the joy of writing periodically. I also do this after a long winter. Spring is the time for renewal, to look back at the past, find what’s good, and move forward. It’s a good time to put the best of your work into manuscript form.

I will continue to blog on Thursdays, with announcements as they come up, on Tuesdays.

April Is Poetry Month

“Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim.”

–Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pied Beauty

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Beautiful, precious things make life worth living, especially in these difficult times. Poetry is a celebration of the beauty, and sometimes lack of it in life.

It’s important to make beauty in the world, especially when war and violence are a threat. I make beauty, as many poets do, in my poetry. This beauty makes life worth living, even in depressing times. In fact, I try to write through the despair.

And it’s important to remember to be grateful for this beauty. Everyday, in my meditation, I find something, even on bad days, to be grateful for, i.e. the sounds of the spring peepers at my local pond, the small green sprouts of spring, etc. I’m sure you can add to this list.

I will continue to blog on Thursdays, with announcements, as they come along, on Tuesdays.

How Does a Writer Decide on the Next Project?

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When you finish a manuscript, there is usually a down time for reflection, but then, as a writer, you need to start on a new project. I find this phase challenging because I often have many ideas percolating, but don’t know which one to choose to pursue. It’s a commitment.

There’s not enough time to pursue all my ideas, so the issue is which projects to pursue and which to pass by, maybe forever. So I ask myself, is this the right concept for a poem, narrative for a story?

There’s a project that’s right for you, and only you can find it. I recently published a book of poetry and now I am in search of a project. Check out my book at:

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

I will continue to blog about the writing process on Thursdays and blog announcements, if I have any, on Tuesdays.

Writing as an Antidote to a Crumbling World

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I woke up last night in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, war on my mind. The new poem I had written that day needed a title. I got out of bed and added the title to the poem.

This act of writing can be a savior in these dark times. The writing is a form of sanity for me. If I am writing about current events or not, it is a way of keeping myself focussed on something positive.

My creative visualizations are on world peace these days. My creative writing takes me anywhere it leads me.

I will continue to blog on Thursdays, with announcements on Tuesdays.

Writing the Landscape

One thing I love about winter in the Northeast is the snow. Now the snow is going, and it’s officially spring this week.

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I love the quiet, the writerlyness of the whole thing. But how does this affect my writing? I wrote a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s. We had spent a lot of time in Mexico, so this landscape came into my poems:

“When I think of Oaxaco

I remember the Zocolo

where they sold pipa del agua

and chocolate dripping from paper cups.”

The setting just naturally came into the poem. Does this happen with you?

Take look at my collection:

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

I will continue to blog on Thursdays and do announcements, as they come in, on Tuesdays.

The Best Friend of the Writer

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The best friend of the writer can be the writer her or himself. As writers, we crave praise, awards, good reviews, and the affirmation of the publisher, but if we remember the joy of the creative process, we don’t need the positive feedback of others.

As a poet, I work often alone and in solitude. Books tend to be published quietly also. There may be a book launch, but aside from that, people buy and read our books on their own. This doesn’t mean that our books don’t touch people or have a lasting effect. A writers, we know the books that have made that special impact on us and we have to trust that our writing will have an effect on our readers.

We entered into the art of writing for deeper reasons that passing attention and it’s best to get in touch with those internal reasons, rather than looking for external affirmations. That way, when the praise comes, it will be a pleasant reminder of our internal worth as writers, and we truly will be our own best friends.

I’ll be blogging on Thursdays and posting announcements on Tuesdays, as they come along.

Writing and Technology: Does Personal Writing Matter at this Tech-Driven Time?

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Whether writing pen to paper or sending a text or email, writing and reading is different today.

We can listen to a podcast, watch the news on television or our computer, or still read a book or newspaper. But what of the skill of writing? Employers complain that resumes are filled with typos and a well-written resume still draws a better job application response. The written word can be a powerful tool for a business leader affecting employees. Studies show that people disregard messages when they have glaring typos and mistakes.

And what about the power of a hand-written message. When was the last time you got one? Did you read it? Did it affect you? How about a letter sent by snail mail, rather than email or text?

A personalized message has a way of making the person receiving it feel valued and recognized.

It wasn’t sent to the masses, but written especially for the receiver.

Writing has a way of developing relationships between people. I know at holiday times when I get hand-written cards, I always respond positively to them and pay attention, be they a simple,

“Best wishes for the New Year” or a whole report on the last year.

And what of the creative writer? Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way suggest starting the day by handwriting with pen to paper. This is supposed to access the creative side and also gives the artist the freedom to write without rereading or censoring. Many writers use pen and paper as a different way into their writing that their computer keyboard just doesn’t do.

When I wrote my most recent collection of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, I tried all different ways of writing: pen and paper, keyboard, dictating into a recorder, an old typewriter.

Check out this collection at:

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

I will be blogging on Thursdays, with announcements on Tuesdays. If you have anything to announce: readings, new publications, literary events, let me know and I’ll blog them for you.

The Beauty of Imperfection in Writing

There is beauty in imperfection. In this pre-Colombian figure, the right arm is missing, but it’s still beautiful. Michelangelo would often leave a small bit of sculpture unfinished, like on his David he did not polish the very top of the head. This is the aftermath of a crippling self-doubt. He knew as an artist he could never be perfect. Kafka told his friend to burn his manuscripts.

So why do we have a feeling of inadequacy from time to time about out own work? Nothing is perfect in the world. Why should our writing be? Leonardo DaVinci said art is never finished, only abandoned.

As writers, we have to transform a blank page or screen into something other people will want to read. This is not always easy. No wonder sometimes we fail. Failure is inevitable.

This is an imperfect world and we need to let go of the idea of perfection. We can aspire to good writing, but it will never be perfect. Some people will like our writing. Some people won’t. Regardless, we should keep writing as best we can.

I will keep blogging on Thursdays and if I have announcements, they will be on Tuesdays.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block, or when an author is unable to produce new work, happens to all writers.

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Try writing something of special interest to you.  Write down all the primary ideas you’d like to write and then write the smaller ideas that make up the big ideas. Then write an outline of these ideas.

Now you have an outline that is a starting point.  Research your topic.  Then write down your own thoughts on the research.  Identify gaps in the research you find. Now you’re ready to write.

When I wrote my last collection of poems, I had many blocks. Some are emotional, such as my partner’s Alzheimer’s that I wrote about in Touch My Head Softly. Or just time barriers, so that when you finally have a chance to write, there’s a lot of pressure to sit down and produce.

But I got through it and published my latest collection earlier this year: