Thinking and Writing

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The writing process begins before you type words into your computer or put pen to paper.

The first step in the writing process is research. You should focus on your topic and learn as much as you can about it before you start writing. After you begin writing, you may well identify “holes” in your thinking or writing and you will have to do more research.

If your topic is broad, you may want to narrow it down. This usually becomes apparent after you’ve started writing. For instance, if you’re writing a biography about John F. Kennedy, you might focus on the years of his presidency, rather than on his childhood or education.

You should jot down all your thoughts about your topic, then develop a theme and related ideas about your central theme. Think about your audience and what they want and need to know.

I have been writing a narrative poetry piece about our drowning world: how the water keeps rising and eating up and flooding land. I’m not a scientist, so I needed to do a lot of research on this. My previous collection of poems was about Alzheimer’s Disease and I also needed to do a lot of research about this disease. I have not finished the piece about the drowning world, but if you would like to check out my collection about Alzheimer’s, check out this link:

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

Time Commitment and Writing

The difference I have noticed between successful writers who publish and people who want to be writers is the time commitment. The successful writer takes his/her writing seriously and carves out time daily to write.

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The successful writer is disciplined about writing, if not daily, at regular intervals, and sticks to that schedule. We all go through periods of vacation, periods of time devoted to family and friends, but within those diversions, the writer has discipline about devoting time to the craft.

Never assume that something will get done because you’ve told yourself it will. Have a disciplined approach, and rely on writing groups, calendars, schedules, good word processing systems, in other words, the tools of the trade in good order. Then sit down and write.

It took me ten years to write my most recent collection, but I finished and published it. Take a look:

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

I will blog regularly on Thursdays.

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

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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.

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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/

I’m Delighted to Be Included: In This Together: A Virtual Exhibit on Planetary and Human Health July 5 to September 5, 2021

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.

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Check out these wonderfully talented artists and writers:

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/

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

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Finding a Theme for Your Blog

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.

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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:

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