April is National Poetry Month

April has been dedicated as National Poetry Month in the United States since 1996. The Academy of American Poets saw how successful Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) had been at raising public awareness of those topics, and they felt the need to raise public awareness of poetry, especially in American public schools. According to the Academy of American Poets, the mission of National Poetry Month is to:

We at Writers Forum would like to give you some resources for helping poets in their craft.

First, we have The Complete Rhyming Dictionary.

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This great little book includes a one-hundred page Poet’s Craft Book. This teaches you rhythm, rhyme, stanza patterns, and various forms and techniques of poetry. The meat of the book, however, is a literal ‘rhyming dictionary’, helping you find rhymes to almost any word you would need in your poetry. Need a rhyme for ‘alabaster’, and you have already used ‘plaster’ and ‘master’, but you need more? Well, how about ‘blaster’, ‘disaster’, ‘faster’, ‘forecaster’, or ‘pastor’?

The photo is my beat up copy that I have been carrying around for twenty-five years or so. The Complete Rhyming Dictionary has been an important tool on my writing tool box.

Then we have Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook: a Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry.

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Mary Oliver goes into the nuts and bolts of writing poetry, and she does it in clear language that is easy for the non-poet to follow. She encourages practice, practice, practice in writing, and says, “One learns through thinking about writing, and by talking about writing–but primarily through writing.” Ms. Oliver gives us plenty of examples and suggestions for writing exercises.

Then we have Pulitzer Prize-winner and former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual.

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The Poetry Home Repair Manual is especially geared towards beginning poets, but poets at any level can use Ted’s sage advice. He leaves most of the actual ‘how to’s for other books. Ted seems most concerned with the poet’s attitude and expectations, which mean everything to the heart and soul of poetry. He encourages us to write the type of poetry that we would like to read, which means accessible to most people. He writes:

The Poetry Home Repair Manual advocates for poems that can be read and understood without professional interpretation. My teacher and mentor, Karl Shapiro, once pointed out that the poetry of the twentieth century was the first poetry that had to be taught. He might have said that had to be explained. I believe with all my heart that it’s a virtue to show our appreciation for readers by writing with kindness, generosity, and humility toward them. Everything you’ll read here holds to that.

Kooser’s book is a great one for jump stating your motivation to write poetry.

And since we are in the 21st century, there are all sorts of on-line helps for the poet, from Rhyme Zone and Rhymes, to Poem-a-Day delivered directly to your e-mail box, the access we have today to poetry and writing helps is phenomenal. Don’t forget to look for poetry apps for your smart phone. Go to wherever you purchase and download your apps, and search for key words like ‘rhyming dictionary’. You might be surprised at all of the useful tools available for that marvelous little tool in your hand!

What poetry writing tools and helps have you found? What are your favorites? Please share them with us on our Facebook page, or shoot us an e-mail at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . We would love to hear from you!

#NationalPoetryMonth

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Author Workshop with Tim Hernandez

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From the Shasta Public Library in Redding:

“Come join writer and poet Tim Hernandez for a discussion of his book All They Will Call You, and an hour-long writer’s workshop.

Delve into Hernandez’s years of painstaking investigative research of the airplane disaster which claimed the lives of 32 passengers, including 28 unnamed Mexican citizens—farm workers who were being deported by the U.S. government.

This FREE event is great for teens and adults.

This event is supported by the California Center for the Book and Poets & Writers, Inc. The California Center for the Book is supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administrated in California by the State Librarian.

Support for Poets & Writers’ Readings & Workshops program in California is provided by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.”

Tim Z. Hernandez is a writer and performance artist. He is the recipient of an American Book Award for poetry, the Colorado Book Award for poetry, and the International Latino Book Award for historical fiction. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and National Public Radio. Named one of sixteen New American Poets by the Poetry Society of America, he was a finalist for the inaugural Split This Rock Freedom Plow Award for his work on locating the victims of the 1948 plane wreck at Los Gatos Canyon, the incident made famous by Woody Guthrie’s song of the same name. The result of this work is the basis for his newly released book, All They Will Call You (University of Arizona Press). Hernandez holds a B.A. from Naropa University and an M.F.A. from Bennington College. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing.

A Visit with Joel and Nancy

Joel Stratte-McLure and Nancy Weigman

at the Redding Public Library
this Saturday, March 2

 

 

From Joel Stratte-McClure:

Will There Be Yoga, Nudity, Eagles, A Slideshow And Books At An Idiot Appearance On Saturday?

The buzz is that attendees at an Idiot speaking gig in Redding, California, on Saturday afternoon (March 2) will witness yoga headstands, walk through the world’s largest nudist colony, meet live eagles from Carthage, watch a looping slideshow that gives new meaning to travel photographs and hear about the genesis, evolution and execution of The Idiot’s twenty-year walk around the Mediterranean Sea.

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This Saturday: Manuscript Ailing? Call the (Book) Doctor!

Important announcement to follow!

On Saturday, January 12, CF member George Winship will speak about the process he uses to help his clients restructure their book manuscripts and polish them for publication. With a wealth of experience as a ghostwriter, editor and researcher, George will explain how he diagnoses manuscripts that are ailing to come up with just the right prescription for success.

George earned his MA in Journalism from the University of Oregon in 1980.

He then spent nearly 34 years writing nonfiction articles, features and columns for newspapers in Oregon, Montana and northern California. For seven years, from 2007-2014, he was Editor of the Anderson Valley Post, a weekly newspaper.

In 2005, George launched The Village Wordsmith, a business that specializes in helping writers get published in print or, more recently, on digital platforms such as Kindle, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble’s Book Nook, Smashwords and Apple’s iBooks.

Writers Forum meets from 10:30am – 12:30pm monthly (except for July and August) in the All Saints Episcopal Church located at 2150 Benton Drive, Redding, CA. Doors open at 10am. The public is welcome to get acquainted with two free visits before joining. Annual membership dues are $25.

This Saturday only, we will not meet in our regular room,  Memorial Hall, due to a church function in Memorial Hall. We will instead meet in  Eaton Hall East, the building behind Memorial Hall. We will be at the same location, and use the same parking lot, but in a different building. Follow the signs when you get there. Thanks.

Riverfront Playhouse Presents ‘Talking With’

Would you like a chance to study speech patterns in a controlled language lab?

Then come out to the Riverfront Playhouse on October 18, 19, or 20 for Talking With, by Jane Martin.

Talking With

From the website for the performance:

The play is composed of eleven ten-minute monologues, each featuring a different woman who talks about her life.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at http://www.artstheatre.org/ .

 

 

Poetry Lessons…and Healing

The program for last Saturday’s Writers Forum meeting was how to Jump Start Your Writing With Poetry. WF member and published author Linda Boyden shared with the group some techniques she has learned for writing poetry that also give us great tools for other types of writing as well.

One of those techniques was called writing a Sensory Poem.

The first step in writing a sensory poem is to pick a topic. Then you brainstorm words and phrases for that topic from each of the five senses. For instance, suppose you pick the topic A Winter Day. You would brainstorm words and phrases that describe sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings that you would associate with a winter day. When you have collected a good number of words, grab a few from that list and shape them into a poem.

The beautiful thing about these techniques is that the rules are few. “How many words do you need to write write down from your brainstorm?” Enough to give yourself a good selection of words to choose for your poem. Some people might write ten words and then see a poem in them. Some people might write thirty or forty words and still have to play around with them like letter tiles on a Scrabble rack to find a poem. “Do you have to use all of the words that you brainstorm?” Only if you want to. That might be a fun challenge, but don’t feel like you have to. “Can I only use words from my list?” No, the words on the list are the bricks you will use to build your poem. You still need mortar to connect them and make them solid, right?

Don’t feel like you should be obligated to spending a lot of time on this, either. Think quickly and write, and then move on. This is, after all, intended to jump start your other writing projects. Once you have your creativity flowing with a poem, hopefully it will be easier for you to move onto your other writing projects with a fresh dose of creativity. It works for me!

Here is a poem that was written at the program by WF member Carolyn Faubel. Carolyn drew upon intense images from the devastating Carr Fire. Writing poetry about the disaster might be one way to help ourselves heal.

 

The Carr Fire

By Carolyn Faubel

9/8/18

 

Perfect black leaves are floating down into my back yard,

A strange snow of destruction.

Gentle and persistent, ashfall is silent,

Unless you count the dogs howling as fire trucks and police cars go screaming by.

 

Stinking yellow smoke moves from piney campfire to burning plastic,

And other smells that must not be named.

Everywhere, sharp unforgiving branches spray out, their protection

Blasted off by the monster’s breath.

 

From the dun dry fallen leaves, a soft

Sooty fragment of upholstery fabric

The size of a moth

Balances delicately.

When I pick it up, the light shows through the thin weave of

Carbonized black thread.

And when I stroke the tufts of

Black velvet,

It crumbles and disappears in the breeze.

Was it your couch?

I am sorry.

 

If you attended the program and would like to share your poetry from the poetry program, or even if you would like to try the exercise now and write a new poem, please send them to Writers Forum at writersforumeditor@gmail.com for posting in the future.

Thanks!

 

 

Talking Shop: Louise DeSalvo

The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections of Time, Craft, and Creativity

A Review by George T. Parker

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Writing well is a process that can take a long time. Sometimes we can forget how long it really takes, and we get impatient with the process. We want it done it done now.

Louise DeSalvo not  only gives us permission in The Art of Slow Writing  to take our time in our writing projects, but she convincingly demonstrates that taking  a long time is normal in creating this art we call writing.

Louise previously published seventeen books including several memoirs, a study of Virginia Woolf, and the critically acclaimed Writing as a Way of Healing.

The Art of Slow Writing is divided into five parts: Getting Ready to Write; A Writer’s Apprenticeship; Challenges and Successes; Writers at Rest; and Building a Book, and Finishing a Book. Each section is filled with a sea of examples of writers and the processes they used to create their works. If nothing else from this book, I was inspired to pursue works by some of the writers detailed in this book—both writers I knew, and writers of whom I’d never heard.

But DeSalvo does give us more in her book. Much more. She says in her introduction:

“I write about that major challenge affecting all writers: our need to slow down to understand the writing process so we can do our best work. I’m inviting you on a journey to think about how to work at writing day by day…It’s about how to think about working at writing and slowing down our process so we can become self-reflective writers so we can find our own way.”

One of the things that Slow Writing does is help us to see that early drafts are not the final version of any of our works. Louise tells us about a writer she regularly invites to speak to her memoir writing class.

“Harrison arrived in class with a stack of manuscripts—ten drafts of The Mother Knot that she composed from autumn 2002 through summer 2003. She began the work as a long essay; she realized she was writing a book in the seventh draft. Seeing that pile of drafts was an important learning experience for my students. As one said, “I realized that if it took Harrison that many drafts, it’d take me that long, too.’ “

A critical point on the subject of early drafts: “Because Harrison knows she’ll work through many drafts, she gives herself permission to write badly at first.” (Emphasis added.)

Everybody writes badly at first. It’s through revision and editing that any of us get better. This can be a hard concept to accept when you want to go from a blank page to a published book in a year. Slow writing. Small steps.

A sampling of the fifty-five of Louise’s chapter headings describe the Slow Writing process: Finding Our Own Rhythm; A Writer’s Mise en Place; Walking and Inspiration; Apprenticeship; Process Journal; Patience, Humility, and Respect; Learning How to Learn; Labor and Management; Game Plan; No Excuses; A Writer’s Notebook; Radical Work Takes Time; Failure in the Middle; Creative Problem Solving; Rejection Letters; Hailstorms; Practice Deciding; What Worked and Why; Dreaming and Daydreaming; Why I’m a Writer Who Cooks; Slow Reading; What’s in Your Drawer?; How Long Does it Take; Turning Pages into Books; Writing Partners; The Toughest Choice; The Finish Line.

(For the curious, mise en place is a cooking term for ingredients that are prepared ahead of the actual dish preparation. When you have all of your ingredients diced, measured, and organized into little dishes ready to toss into the pan when you start to cook, you have mise en place. Writers can do the same sort of preparation before they even sit down to write. It helps!)

Louise writes in short but packed chapters. Even years after reading this book, I find myself picking it up frequently as a refresher and encouragement to my own writing. I hope it can be the same inspiration to you. This is the type of book that will make you  want to mark up and write notes in the margins.

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Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity can be found at our local Barnes & Noble. Kindle and Nook copies are also available.


What books on writing have helped you learn your craft? We would love to hear from you. You could share some short answers on our Facebook page, or you could write a review of your favorite writing books to share on the blog. Send your reviews to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

I look forward to hearing from you all!

George is a fish farmer by day, and a word wrangler by night (and weekends). He has been working on a memoir of his life in the California Conservation Corps and Backcountry trail crews since…well…for a long time. After last NaNoWriMo, it is 50,000 words closer to completion and the end is in sight. You can see some of this project at http://grinningdwarf.com/ .  He is crazy enough to try and simultaneously write a blog on the CCC at https://ccchardcorps.wordpress.com/ . George has been the Writers Forum newsletter editor since 2015.