Writing the Landscape

One thing I love about winter in the Northeast is the snow. This is the view from my back porch.

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/

New Year’s Resolutions

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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:

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

Thinking of Audience and Voice When You Write

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When I write, I try to use language that fits the audience and matches the content of the poem. Inappropriate language can turn your reader or listener off before you even get them started.

You want your own unique voice to come through in your writing, but you don’t want that voice to stop your reader from going on. When I read aloud to an audience, I choose different material than when I know the reader will be reading. Some writing is better heard aloud and other writing needs to be read to grasp the ideas and complexities.

When you’re in a line-up of writers at a reading, you usually only have a few minutes to grab your audience. I usually use poems with repeated lines when I read aloud, and shorter, rather than longer poems.

I will be doing a reading from my recent collection Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press, 2021) at a closing reception at the Hosmer Gallery of the Forbes Library virtually. Check it out:


https://forbeslibrary.libcal.com/event/7842100

Polish Your Writing

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The word polish means to make something smooth and shiny, like leather shoes So what does it mean to polish your writing?

Does it mean to go through your piece and get rid of minor errors? Or does it mean to improve or perfect? To me it means go over your writing and make sure that it all makes sense. This differs from editing in my mind, which refers more to going over your piece for minor errors in punctuation or grammar.

I am currently writing a long narrative poem, about the drowning earth, interspersed with haiku. There’s a lot to follow. I do a draft and then read it over once, revising as I go. It’s not yet polishing, which I do at the end.

My most recent collection of poetry that I published was a different process. It was a highly emotional collection about the death of my partner to Alzheimer’s. It was painful to write, and I just got it out on paper periodically over a number of years. I then polished it at the end. Take a look:

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

Join Me and 11 Other Western Massachusetts Writers for a Straw Dog Showcase September 8, 6:30 pm

https://www.kathrynholzman.com/news/straw-dogs-author-showcase-2021

Join me and 11 other Western Massachusetts Writers for the 7th Annual Straw Dog Writers Showcase at 6:30 pm tomorrow. Follow the link to register

#p

What To Do About 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.  

Now you have an outline and some new thoughts to add to your outline.  When I wrote my most recent collection of poems, when I was blocked, I started reading other formal poetry forms.  I would take a concept I wanted to write a poem about, I’d choose a form and try to 

follow the form into the idea.  Either the form would work, like a narrative poem, a haiku, or a pantoum, or I would write outside of the form and wind up with a draft of a new poem.

Check out my new collection here:

Touch My Head Softly by Eileen P. Kennedy

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?

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: