National Poetry Month

Here it is, almost the end of April, and I have nearly missed writing about National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month was started by the American Academy of Poets in 1996 “to remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters,” as we learn from the AAP website.

I know that Writers Forum has many poets in our membership. I also know that Writers Forum has many good writers who find themselves intimidated by poetry. I know, because until a short while ago, I was one of you.

Sure, I had dabbled in poetry in college. I tried my hand at free verse and sonnets. And once I didn’t have to write poetry for assignments anymore, I stopped writing it. Poetry was hard. I had a hard time reading it. I was much more comfortable writing in prose. I had been writing prose all of my life, and it worked just fine for me. Why change?

I’ll tell you why.

Writing poetry will make your prose stronger. I guarantee it.

Poetry took me by surprise. It ambushed me after a Writers Forum Read Around. I hadn’t even read any poetry. I had read a selection from my Backcountry Trails memoir. After the Read Around, a friend in Writers Forum approached me and asked me to join her poetry critique group. Just like that. I didn’t know what to say. She said that her poetry group had dwindled through attrition down to two people, and they really needed a third for it to remain a ‘group.’ I protested that I don’t even write poetry.

She said, “You are a writer. Writers write. Poetry is just another type of writing, and I am confident that your poetry is just fine.”

I thought about it for a minute. If for no other reason than to get to know these other writers better, I agreed to check out their group. I met them at a local restaurant the next week.

Did I mention that the other two people are language teachers and published authors? Do I need to tell you that I felt intimidated and way, way out of my league to be sharing poetry with them?

I also need to tell you that they did everything they could to make me feel at ease and to assure me that I am a writer, and poetry is one aspect of any writer’s craft. I had heard it said that writing poetry helps your word choice and concision in other writing.

It’s true.

After spending almost two years writing poetry, it turns out to be the single best thing I have done to improve my writing in a long time. Give it a shot!

Even after National Poetry Month ends, we will continue posting on this blog to help you build your poetry muscles. I will also be looking for poets interested in contributing articles about the craft of poetry.

Maybe we can make it a regular feature and call it Hitting the Poetry Gym. I am open to other suggestions.

If you are a poet and would like to contribute to the blog, or if you have other name suggestions for a ‘poetry workout’ feature, leave a comment, or email me at writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

Thanks for reading,

Geo.


If you would like to contribute an original piece to Writers Forum for posting on the blog, please submit to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .  Please note ‘Submission’ in the subject line. All submissions are considered, but shorter pieces of 500-1500 words are preferred. We will consider all original works–poetry, short fiction, essays, memoir. We would also love to run your short pieces on writing as well. Share your writing insights with us. Thanks!

Queen’s Letter 4: More Inspiration to Stay the Eff Home

We have another letter form the Queen! Today Laura shares some tricks and tools for making your social distancing fruitful for your writing projects. She references Amazon books, and I have inserted links in the titles to make them easy for you to find at Amazon. Just click on the title, and you are there! I will also have a few comments on the Amazon maze after her letter to you.

Okay, let’s try and get some work done!

First of all: what the hell are you wearing?  I don’t mean your pants.  I don’t care if you are wearing pants or not.  I mean I care/not care.  What I’m talking about is what are you wearing on your feet?

Shuffling around in your bedroom slippers at home makes you feel sloppy, unproductive, and frankly: sick.

If you are worried about bringing germs in the house with your regular shoes, wipe the bottoms of your shoes with one of those precious bleach-y wipes you’ve been hording for other reasons.

Pants/no pants, put your socks and shoes on! Doing that will literally give you the support you need to get some shit done. Writing, too. It will also facilitate Hokey Pokey-ing around the yard during your 10-minute breaks after 45 minutes of writing/planning to write.  Yup, that’s the schedule (see what I did there?).

Here’s a plan for getting some shit done:  If you have a manuscript started, re-read the whole thing.  Now.  Really, this will get your head right back where it needs to be and is more productive that looking at the blank page and nodding your head to the bouncing curser, waiting for inspiration.  It really helped me get revved up this week!

After doing that or if you haven’t started a manuscript, read something teachable and learnable.

Over the past few months, I’ve told you about some of my favorite Pretend Boyfriends who don’t know I exist, and have written some great writing books. Since you forgot, I’ve made a list for you. Each book is a sentence. Because I think that makes it more dramatic, not because I think it’s grammatically correct.  It’s a list in no particular order of importance or romantic fantasy. And very little commentary. (Not “no commentary,” ‘cause, have you met me?!)  Here ya go:

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton (He wrote some of this from prison, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned something about getting hooked. And caught). The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (Helps you get noticed by an agent!). The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke (Just helps). The Elements of Storytelling by Peter Rubie.  Story Tumps Structure by Steven James (okay he’s my favorite.). Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James (see?). Secrets of Story by Matt Bird (he’s probably really cute!). The Last 50 Pages by James Scott Bell (This will change your life!  You can troubleshoot what you’ve already written to get the best ending ever. Not a “happy ending” but that’s a whole ‘nuther kind of thing. But really this is sooo good and you can read and understand it in one afternoon! He usta be a lawyer so he can, arguably, convince you to make your writing better so you can not just drive, but Arrive!).  The Art of Subtext Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter (You’ll have to re-read this a few times!).  Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer (which will make you laugh out loud a great many times!).

The above use literary and cinematic references to give you concrete examples of what the hell they are talking about.

Now for the girls!  These female authors are contemporary and also give concrete examples for you to cruise and use.

Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld (and I like the title for something to rebel against!). Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy (teaching you how to find and fix shit in your writing). 90 days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet.  It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande (I also like this one because it’s a riff on one of my family’s favorite phrases!). The Scene Book, a Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield (who proves that every scene has a pulse!).  Story Genius by Lisa Cron (Planning from idea to wired brain writer). Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody (Changes the way you think about story!). Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide For Novels and Novellas by Karen Wiesner.  Writing With Emotion, Tension, & Conflict by Cheryl St. John. AND DYI MFA by Gabriela Pereira (It’s more than a How To book, it gives a plan like a fun kind of classroom, and you can sign up for e-mail letters to keep you going!).

And how do you get these beauties now, in the Time of Chingona Virus?  Amazon! If you sign up for Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping on books and a whole bunch of new tv and movies things to watch (on your Roku or Smart Thing). A year-long subscription is $106 and now there is a monthly payment option instead of a big ol’ one-time payment.  All online! I like to have these kinds of craft books in paperback so I can (gasp!) mark them up!  These are the kind of books you want to go back to time and again and, as your skill progresses, you will need different chapters that speak to your changing needs.  It’s like learning a new language. When you have mastered some basics, you suddenly hear “new” things because you know more things, now.

Yeah, I know: Big Biz, Independent Bookstores, blah, blah, blah. But this is the time of Chingona Virus and you need to stay the eff home AND get shit done. When it’s safe to go to the Indy stores, we will. But that’s not now, so don’t think your patriotic duty is anything other than staying the eff home.

There is also Amazon’s Kindle to get these books to you right away.  There is a “note taking” function on the Kindle but I think it’s hard to use. So you can take notes like, on paper and stuff. Kindle magically gets your books to you immediately after purchase and opens them on your device when you are near wifi, and is usually cheaper by a few dollars to buy this electronic way than paper books. You will have these books forever on your Kindle.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you might want to get one online now! It’s about $50, on sale at different times. It’s as big as the old kind of paperback novel and weighs just a couple ounces. Get the little “stand” ($12) with it and you can read hands free! You will also get lots of new tv and movie things to watch on your Kindle Fire if you purchase Amazon Prime! Makes tv portable, and you can carry hundreds of books on it, too! There is a “help” telephone/online number to help you set it up (Honestly, it’s very easy, takes seconds, and much easier than setting up a computer!).

Of course, you can get Amazon Prime on your PC, too and read/watch your stuff there. It’s a much bigger screen than a Kindle, but you might be at the mercy of a cord or a laptop battery.

Which ever way you get to these books, get to them! You need to jump-start your writing again, and try to not obsess over, well, all this. And stay the eff home!


Laura referenced Amazon for purchasing your books while we cannot hit the brick-and-mortar stores that might be our favorite indy establishment. I wanted to let you know one thing to be aware of while shopping at Amazon: you easily have the ability to purchase books in multiple formats. The links above all go to the Kindle versions. You also have the option of purchasing softcover, hardcover, and all sorts of editions of the books. You can even purchase them from ‘independent sellers’ through Amazon.

You need to stay aware of exactly which version/edition you are purchasing, and be sure you look at all of your options. When I looked up Laura’s first book, the page I landed on listed the Kindle, softcover, and hardcover version. The Kindle version was $13.99, the softcover version was listed at $54.89, and the hardcover at $112.70. I went to the Kindle version for the link to provide in this post, and I saw that the softcover version here was listed at $23.99, and the hardcover for $25.00. Sometimes the links go to off-site non-Amazon sellers who are selling through Amazon. I don’t think Amazon was trying to rip anybody off, but you do need to look around at exactly what you are purchasing.

One of the books Laura mentioned was DIY MFA. I have mentioned that book on this blog before. It’s not just a book; it’s a program that you can use as little or as much of as you want. In addition to the book, which is a great one in its own right, you can follow the blog, podcasts, and many videos for free. There are also class options and different levels of engaging with DIY MFA that cost money. Look for another blog post on the DIY MFA program soon.

 

Geo.


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Welcome to Writers Forum, 2020

2019

We had a great time in 2019, didn’t we? We heard great writing from our members at two Read Arounds. Writers Forum member and past president George Winship taught us what an editor, or a book doctor, can do for our manuscripts before we even submit them to agents or publishers. Professional editor Heather Cuthbertson taught us how to write a winning query letter. Our own Alicia McCauley taught us a prewriting exercise called ‘cubing,’ and also provided us with a cool soundtrack for future Writers Forum presentations. Shasta College instructor Jessica Fletcher Wiechman shared her insights into screenwriting. Author Lezlie Winberry shared her knowledge and experiences from attending writing conferences. Chico poet, author, and speaker Susan Wooldridge gave a delightful presentation on writing poetry. Writers Forum Program Director Sharon Owen shared insights on what editors expect us to know about word processors and the formatting of our manuscripts before submitting. Writers Forum Newsletter Editor George Parker demonstrated Scrivener, a word processor alternative to Microsoft Word that is designed specifically for novelists, poets, and play/screenwriters. Last year also saw the return of a major event the Writers Forum had not been able to provide for several years: the Authors Book Fair. Then, just in time for Christmas, we saw our published anthology of Writers Forum authors, River’s Edge: Volume 1.

Which event did you get the most out of in 2019? Post a reply!

2020

This year looks just as fun!

Of course, we will have our biannual Read Arounds.

Our January meeting is already behind us. Writers Forum member and author Linda Boyden showed us how to collect our poetry and build our own chapbooks. Next month, former Writers Forum member and editor Jen Higley will show us how we can use WordPress to create our own author’s websites.

Our March meeting will be a huge event. Forensic pathologist and author Judy Melinek, MD will be presenting on her first novel, First CutFirst Cut was only released on January 7, making it literally a new book, and it has already  been gaining 5-star reviews on Amazon. It is her first novel, but her second book. Her first book, Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, is the story of her life as a rookie forensic pathologist in New York City. She started that job two months before the 9/11 attacks. All of our Writers Forum meetings are open to the public, but we are expecting such interest for this one that we are changing our venue for the event. It will be held at the McConnell Foundation Conference Room, at the McConnell Foundation’s Lima Ranch facility at 800 Shasta View Drive. There will be a small charge for admission for the general public to this event, but Writers Forum members will, of course, get in for free as a part of their Writers Forum membership. Seating in this room is limited to 70 seats, which is larger than our usual venue, but you will need to RSVP to reserve your seat, even as a Writers Forum member.

We are also planning to have another Authors Book Fair in 2020. This will be at the same location as the 2019 event: the Holiday Inn Convention Center on Hilltop Drive. We are looking forward to a bigger event this year, with more advertising and more authors selling books. We invite all of you who have books to sell to attend. If you don’t have a book to sell right now, you could, if you have a manuscript. George Winship, Linda Boyden, and others have been teaching us over the last year about how we could get our own books published online. Let’s make use of that!

We will also put together River’s Edge, Volume 2 in 2020. Start preparing your short stories, essays, and memoir pieces now!

 

And there is even more in store for 2020!

What are you looking forward to the most from Writers Forum in 2020? Post a reply!

 

See you at the meetings.

 

Geo.

It’s November! Ready For NaNoWriMo?

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Yes! It is less than two weeks to the kick off for the 2019 NaNoWriMo, which is of course, National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is the endurance race to get 50,000 words of a project down on paper. Or on your hard rive.

The writing project is usually a novel, but it doesn’t have to be. There are categories for  just about any genre you would write.

Go to the NaNoWriMo website by clicking here, create a free account for yourself, and then explore the options. Create a profile, organize a project, or search for your community. You do not have to be alone in this race.

The objective to to write, write, write every day in November. To meet the 50,000 word goal, one has to write just over 2,500 words every day. (Edit: Oops. Sorry. It’s only 1,667 words per day.) The trick to this is to never edit in November. Get those words down on the page! October is for editing!

For the first time in several years, there is a Redding Area Municipal Liaison who is coordinating events for NaNoWriMo participants in the area. You can see that they have several events already scheduled throughout the month.

NaNoWriMo Events

The Kick Off event will be next Tuesday, October 29, at the downtown From the Hearth, at 6:30 at 1427 Market St Promenade. Click here for more details on the Kick Off Event. It looks like seven people are signed up for it right now, so you will meet other motivated area writers. You can also find others in the Redding area who are participating by checking out the Redding regional page at the NaNoWriMo website by clicking here.

If you have never tried NaNoWriMo, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. I participated a couple of years ago. I did great the first two weeks, but then ran out of gas. Even though I did not reach the 50,000 word goal, I did end November with 23,856 words that I did not have on November 1. You cannot lose in this proposition.

Thanks,

Geo.

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Terri Farley Critique Opportunity

Do you have a manuscript ready to go that you would like to have a professional author look over? Now is your chance!

Best-selling author Terri Farley will be speaking at the Writers Forum meeting on November 11. After her presentation, Terri is offering to have one-on-one critiques on  with individual authors on ten pages of their material. There are two things you need to know for this to happen…

  • There is a $40 fee. Some of this fee comes back to Writers Forum as a fund raiser.
  • Terri needs your ten pages in advance of her visit, so she has time to read your work and give you a well thought out critique.

The deadline for submissions is coming up very quickly…October 25. Yes, you read that right…next Wednesday.

You can contact Jennifer Levens directly by phone at (530) 722-0504, or e-mail at theatermaven2@gmail.com ,  or you can speak to her at tomorrow’s Writers Forum meeting.

If you have a manuscript ready to go, this is a great opportunity for a profession opinion on how to improve your chances for publication.

Good luck, and have fun.

See you tomorrow for Anna Elkins’ presentation on poetry!