Onething 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?
Years ago, an artists success was determined by art critics, collectors and publishers. Today, this has changed. Today these people are no longer in power and the writer is often an entrepreneur if she/he wants to make an income from her/his writing.
Vincent Van Gogh chose not to go commercial and only sold a few paintings in his life. Andy Warhol created The Factory to create and promote his work as an assembly line process. Writers also fall into different categories of commercialness. Some just prefer not to publish and read and write within circles of writing groups and friends. Others put a lot of effort into reading, blogging, working with publishers, etc. in order to sell copies. Some writers publish and promote their own books, while others publish with publishers and work in conjunction to promote the book.
Today’s artist/writer may have to brand their work, build an online presence, and stay aware and use social media trends. Margaret Atwood, with her book Testament, the sequel to A Handmaiden’s Tale, attracted hundred of fans to her book launch in London by having women dressed in red capes and white bonnets. She also simulcast it in three cities. She has been on the best-seller’s list many times.
Writers have to develop other skills besides writing to sell copies of their books. This means taking advantage of social media, blogging, and podcasting in order to reach potential customers. A writer has to decide how much time she/he wants to spend on promotion, which does take away from the creativity.
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:
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:
The four elements: earth, wind, fire, water in your writing can be exhilarating.
The four elements can be nurturing, but they an also destroy. There is much possibility in these primitive forces. Fire, for instance, can be cleansing or destructive at the same time.
There’s a scene about a fire and the seeds. I actually had that dream, where there was a fire, and I dreamt that I was carrying those seeds, that they’re what had to be protected. I thought about that later, that those are the instincts that these women had, the instinct to protect your food source, no matter what, because you didn’t have a Costco, you didn’t have Cub, you didn’t have social services or food shelves or anything else to rely on except yourself. Fire, to me, it’s got the two sides of it. It’s the simultaneous purging and cleansing, but it’s also destructive. But then you see what happens after a fire out in the forest and the deadwood’s gone and all of a sudden, there’s all these wildflowers coming up. I love that. I love that cycle of renewal that happens with fire. That was a really key element in the story.
Yes. To me, that’s Western science that has made that very arbitrary distinction. I think the extent to which we can consider ourselves “objective” is something of a myth because we bring all of our filters, we bring all of our experience, and while I believe you can have a rigorous process that really does your due diligence in research, it’s never separate from who you are and it’s never separate from everything around you. So that Western understanding of science is very different from an Indigenous understanding of science, which is all about place. There is a great book called Native Science by Greg Cajete. It’s one of my favorite books. I’ve got it underlined, I’ve got it marked up. He talks about the metaphoric mind. He talks about how science has to be relational as well. You can’t take it out of life and its context with everything else around it and say, “There’s just this.” That’s why I think technology has gotten so out of control, because it never takes into account what’s going to happen in the future. It doesn’t take into account the consequences of it, meaning some of the pollution or the using up of resources or nuclear power, when we think about waste that’s going to last for thousands and millions of years. That’s unethical in my mind. What you’ve done is borrowed or poisoned the future for your grandchildren. That’s not right. So science has to have ethics. It has to have a relational connection to the world around it. That book is just a beautiful way of understanding science. That’s my foundational book.
Where are you finding hope or joy or inspiration right now?
Plants, seeds, food, anything to do with the outside world. To go out and garden, to have my hands in the soil, to walk out the door in Minnesota in March and hear birds singing, because our winter is very, very quiet. So to hear birds singing as they’re returning on their migration, and the fact that when all that craziness was happening, the political coup and everything, they didn’t care. The birds keep singing. The world around us is just profound in its disconnect from what humans get so excited about. I think of that as a really good check and balance for our priorities. Writing, reading, working with native writers: those are all joyful places to me.
Witchcraft is thought to date back to the Stone Age and for several millennia witches and their male counterparts Warlocks, were the village doctors, herbalists and counselors. In this day and age, true witches and warlocks still revere the earth and all its inhabitants and work for the highest good of all.
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:
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: