Thursday, December 23, 2010

A foot test - and a template

This light way to review poetic feet whilst making poems comes via the Poetry Foundation on Twitter.

Jincy Willett › The Agony of the Feet: A Refined Way to Waste Time

 ...a nice post-Christmas activity, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

11 Best Articles of the Year

As per Writer's Digest, via Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid

Writers First Aid » 11 Best Articles of the Year

"Caring" poems up at Poets Online

Poets Online now has the poems for its latest prompt "Caring" online. This was an interesting prompt and, judging from the number of poems posted, struck a responsive chord. Almost everyone can relate to caring for or watching someone else care for the old, sick or dying.

After you've read the prompt and the poems written in response to it, consider writing a poem for the newest prompt — to involve the winter solstice and the moon (with no cliches allowed!).

Sunday, January 9, 2011 is the last day you can submit poems to have them considered for publication.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Unlikely poet

Not only can Roberto Luongo stop pucks
but he'd best stick with that to keep making the bucks!

Actually, his rhymes are fun and clever, in a hockey kind of way. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Surprise in the mail...

Yesterday's mail drop brought with it a surprise -- Good Times accepted and published another poem!

Read it here: 2010 News «

Included in the package with my contributor's copies of the magazine was a back-issue of  Fiddlehead. Thanks Good Times!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Living More with Less: An Idea Whose Time Has Come Again

What do you know - Living More With Less, a little book with lots of simple Mennonite advice, has come out in a new edition.

So I dug out my 1980 edition. It's a book of grassroots ideas on how to live simply (a bazillion with the contributor and hometown noted). It's interesting reading if you have the patience to wade through over-the-top suggestions like:

We switched from our automatic washer and dryer to a wringer washer, laundry tubs, and clothesline. I do six loads of wash once a week in an hour and a half with one washer full of hot water. I rinse in cold water." p. 152.

Um... no thanks on that one. But, as the article says, the book should do well with the modern emphasis on living simply and interest in things Amish and Mennonite.

Bible Drive-Thru

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A call to poets on Remembrance Day

Here's your poetry prompt for the day, Canadian poets!

The Province is calling on all readers and budding poets, slam or otherwise, to share their words here on Remembrance Day, as Harbord Harbord did many years ago...

A call to arms for B.C. poets on Remembrance Day:

Monday, November 01, 2010

New poetry stuff

I've just from come poking around on one of my favourite poetry sites, Utmost Christian Writers.

You'll want to read Sue Plett's latest article in the Poet's Classroom Series: "Add to the Beauty." (Also check out the Poet's Classroom index to see if you've missed any others of these helpful instructional articles.)

At Utmost I also found a link to the YouTube of Marianne Jones, reading from Here, on the Ground. I've embedded it below... enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Poetry podcasts

The English Department of St. Columba's College, Whitechurch, Dublin, Ireland is putting together a series called Patterns of Poetry - mini-lectures useful for poets - as short podcasts about elements of poetry. The first eight have been combined into one of almost 35 minutes (though they are under 5 minutes each).

- Introduction
- Titles
- Alliteration
- Personification
- Symbols
- Onomatopoeia
- Cliche
- Simile

SCC ENGLISH: First 8 Patterns of Poetry talks

Find them by-the-each here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review of: Here, on the Ground by Marianne Jones

Title: Here, on the Ground
Author: Marianne Jones
Publisher: Friesen Press, May 2010 
ISBN-10: 1770670319 
ISBN-13: 978-1770670310

If you are aware of the tension between what is and what could be, the contrast between the real and the ideal, the distance between earth and heaven, the poems in Here, on the Ground will resonate with you. This collection of 58 poems is Canadian award-winning poet Marianne Jones' second (her first book Highway 17 was published in 1997).

Through her poems Jones addresses a variety of subjects: relationships, women's issues, the allure of a simple life, personal pain and growth, Bible characters, writing, and what it feels like to live through a Canadian winter. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety. But no matter what the subject, Jones always manages to twist the knife of new awareness in some way.

Sometimes she does it through allusion. That is the effect of the word "alabaster" in these opening lines of "The Jar" that takes us back to the story of the woman who broke her jar of perfume to anoint Jesus:

"You split my heart open
that was calm and contained as alabaster..." — "The Jar" p. 32.

Sometimes she does it with images, as in this poem that speaks of leaving a toxic relationship:

"You were always uneasy about having me around anyway
like an old grenade in your house." — "grenade" p. 33.

At other times her intertwining of old and new captures our attention. A poem that's titled "sleep disorder" speaks of modern Christianity's lethargy in language that reminds us of the sleepy disciples in Gethsemane:

"We mean well;
it's our eyes that are heavy..." "sleep disorder" p. 41.

At still others she uses extended metaphor with a telling and humorous effect, as in the poem titled "Canadian Tire":

"At the temple of function over form
navy clad worshippers in sober boots and parkas
file through sliding jaws
of Entrance and Exit, leaving offerings..." — "Canadian Tire" p. 63.

Whatever the subject or device, we sense the tension between the ideal and the real. It comes out in her poems about the environment:

"One drop of beauty shames a library of tomes.
One loon's call speaks better things
than all their interviews" — "noise pollution" p. 6.

We hear it in the tone of voice as she speaks through the persona of a Bible character:

"before god walked away
and this long night began
i felt grass under my feet;
i saw sky blue and everlasting

i have almost forgotten how blue" — "job speaks" p. 25.

Most of all this dichotomy comes out in her poems about relationships. Of these a poem about forgiveness speaks with candid power:

"Forgiving is being forced to squeeze through a dark tunnel,
I panic, thinking I will stop breathing
or be unable to endure the knife cuts
But then I come to the openness and light at the end
and laugh, or weep for sheer relief..." — "upon opening my prison door" p. 36.

Of course there are fun poems in the collection as well. The section titled "red shoes" contains several whimsical poems that speak from the viewpoints of fairy tale characters. The book ends with a tongue-in-cheek section titled "How Canadians Survive Winter" (Jones, who lives in Thunder Bay Ontario, knows whereof she speaks).

Though some of Jones' poems touch on the subject of her Christian faith, they never confront the reader in a preachy way. Throughout we feel like we are in the company of someone idealistic, who, when she takes a close look at her inner self often finds she doesn't quite measure up. Her honesty helps us identify the issues she grapples with in ourselves, empathize with her disappointments, and celebrate her insights.

This is a rich and accessible collection that will reward readers in many ways.
...from the back cover

Read snippets from Google Books.

Article first published as Book review: Here, on the Ground by Marianne Jones on Blogcritics.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Typo fix - $160,000 later...

Who says typos don't matter?!

CBC News - Books - Franzen's Freedom recalled in U.K. for fixes

Monday, September 06, 2010

Creativity fitness

I'm going to start the fall off right with a bit of creativity fitness. In other words, I plan to simply get to work:
"Creativity is a bit like fitness training – the more you do it, the stronger, faster and fitter you get...
...Treat your writing like a job of work. A meaningful job, that can be enjoyable and even exciting. But just like any other job, it can be boring, frustrating and disappointing at times. Many writers in particular find that a regular daily routine is the best way to approach their work. See if it works for you...
…waiting for inspiration is a form of Resistance – the invisible, insidious force inside us that tries to make us avoid tackling the difficult challenges we set ourselves."
- Mark McGuinness at Lateral Action Blog: "What to do when you run out of inspiration."

Here's another interesting article on how writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days. (H/T: Lateral Action)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Greater Vancouver Writers' Day

One week ago today I attended the Greater Vancouver Writers' Day, an initiative of The Word Guild along with Les and N.J. Lindquist. It was a profitable event which even brought with it a personal triumph (I managed to get to and from the venue in Vancouver from Langley using public transportation — gotta love Skytrain and the Translink website's trip planner!).

NJ ,relaxing with a cup of tea 
after her presentation was done
NJ took the first half of the day. After we introduced ourselves around the circle of 17 she launched into an informative presentation covering all the basics for a Christian writer: Art, Craft, Ministry and Business. She managed to include something of interest to all attendees, from those who are still thinking about taking the plunge into writing, to multi-published authors.

Along with her informative lecture, she gave a wad of handouts. Just this afternoon I filled out her helpful "Action Plan" sheet with its main headings:
- My long-term goal: ___
- Intermediate steps I can take: ___
- I will write: when___; how___; where___.
- I will give myself ___ to work at becoming a writer.
- My first goal is to___
- My accountability partner will be: ___
- My support team will be: ____

One of the things she emphasized was the fact that publishing a book is not the best way to reach a lot of people. In Canada a book that sells 5000 copies is considered a best-seller. Compare that to many magazines which have circulations in the tens of thousands and papers like the  monthly B.C. Christian News which has an estimated readership of 100,000. So if you want to be read widely, write magazine articles, newspaper features, even letters to the editor!

Her handout "Kinds of Writing" was eye-opening. Of course I've heard of most of these kinds of writing before, but to see them all listed on one sheet — there really are many possibilities! The good news is that many of them are a lot less stressful than completing a book manuscript, getting it published (one way or another), then doing all the marketing, promotion and selling. (Or course, your relatives and friends won't be as impressed as if you have a real live tome of yours to show them. Oh well...)

"Editing" is a Multifaceted Word" was another great handout. I'm going to use the list (Concept editing; Substantive editing; Fact-checking; Line editing also called Copy editing; and Proofreading) as a reminder the next time I have a big project in the editing stage.

After lunch of wraps, veggies, fruit and cookies, Les gave his presentation. His information on publishing and distribution was invaluable. I didn't know, for example, that distributors get a 60%, sellers a 40% discount on the cover price of the book. But it makes sense, because everyone needs to make a margin in order to stay in business.

Another tidbit I picked up is that the various book outlets (Chapters, vs. Christian stores, vs. Amazon, vs. Walmart) use different distributors. So having your book available through a variety of  distributors is key to its distribution and in turn its success. Cross-border distribution is also tricky.

Les, enlightening us about the 
somewhat dour state of the book industry.

Not surprisingly, the distribution part of the equation is more difficult for self-published authors, than for authors published through royalty publishers (who mainly take care of distribution through their established channels). 

And then there are the returns. Les told us that in the Canadian book industry, 40% of the books shipped to the various retail outlets come back (which means that the monies these stores paid for the books must be returned to them). The publisher eats that cost... so guess who that is if the book is self-pub'd?

I came away from the day realizing, more than ever, that writing is a business as well as a ministry.The more I realize this, the better equipped I'll be to approach it realistically.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The artist as salesperson

"A sturdy self esteem will do more for your financial success and artistic success than a college degree.

Learn to Sell – It’s an Art

Don’t buy a new guitar, don’t attend another writer’s workshop, and don’t buy another camera lens. You’re not failing as a business because your work isn’t good enough. You’re failing because you’re not selling it the right way to the right people.
You need to learn how to sell. Selling is an art and a necessary skill in life…for everyone. It’s as important as knowing how to balance a checkbook or fill your car with gas."

-- Carlos Velez in "The Artist as a Brand, a Company, a Salesman" | Conscious Me by Carlos Velez

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Improve Your Writing Overnight With The Rule of 24 – Guaranteed | Copyblogger

There is good, true advice in the little piece below. Whenever I've used it, my writing is better. (In fact, there's a book review sitting on my desk right now that I wrote yesterday. I purposely held back on posting it because I knew I'd want to make changes. I have about a dozen marked to make. I'm thinking maybe I should give it another 24!)

Improve Your Writing Overnight With The Rule of 24 – Guaranteed | Copyblogger

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A winner... sort of

I've been doing a little happy dance for the last few days, since I discovered that my poem "Trinkets" got a thumbs-up in the latest Canadian poetry contest at Utmost Christian Writers.

No, it didn't win, but it did in a way -- in that it was awarded one of two  Judges' Favorite awards. I'm so pleased.

You can see the list of winners here. All winning poems are also linked there. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's up in my writing world

A reason to celebrate: Last Thursday I got the good news that an article of mine won The Word Guild Award in the Children/Young Adult Article category. (The list of results is here.)

And on Tuesday - tomorrow, June 22nd -  I'll be  part of our MSA Poets Potpourri Blue Moon Reading series. (Alvin Ens - the frequent prize-winning Abbotsford poet and I are the featured readers.) There will also an open mic. Anyone interested can come. It's at the:
Clearbrook Library
32320 George Ferguson Way, Abbotsford, BC
6:30-8:30 p.m.,
Admission is free

Monday, June 07, 2010

R.I.P. poet coach

John Wooden died last Friday, only four months short of being a centenarian. According to an article by Christianity Today, this "greatest coach who ever lived," wrote a love letter to his wife on the 21st of every month after she died on March 21, 1985.

 "A teacher never knows what stays with those he or she is teaching. You do your best using the tools at your disposal. Poetry was one of my many tools," Wooden says in an article he just wrote for Poetry Magazine. Part of the article is excerpted here, the entire will be available on July 1st.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is too picky possible?

Conductor Michael Bohnert-Wheatley talks about pickiness in conducting an orchestra.

Being too picky? Not possible! | DSCH

Are these principles transferable to writing? Methinks pickiness and poetry-writing (as in editing, tweaking, moving a comma, a dash, a space) certainly go hand in hand.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Post online - are you con? pro?

The last few days have seen a flurry of posts on whether or not to post writing online. There are cons - and pros:


"Be (Slightly) Afraid of Posting Your Work Online" says Chuck Sambuchino on the Guide to Literary Agents Editor's blog.

Kristine Princevalle agrees. She advises:
"Posting Your Prose Online -- Don't!"


Jane Friedman (blogmeister at the Writer's Digest blog There Are No Rules) feels  Chuck and Kristine are wrong. She says (at Writer Unboxed): "Stop Being Afraid of Posting Your Work Online." 

And to give us another perspective on whether we need to be so protective of those "high concept ideas" Chuck Sambuchino says we should be guarding with our lives: Howard Taylor says, "Don't ask Me Where I Get My Ideas."

So what do you think? Do you post your writing online?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

For Christian poets writing traditional rhyme

This is the perfect contest for you if you enjoy writing traditional rhyming poetry on Christian themes.

Deadline is May 31st!

Christian Poetry Contest Rules

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poetry Contest Winners at Utmost

Winners of the annual Utmost Christian Writers Poetry Contest have been announced and the poems are posted. Find out who the winners are and read the winning poems at Poetry Contest Winners at Utmost Christian Writers.

And CONGRATULATIONS to all winners!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

5 things I love, 5 things I hate about the iPad | TechBlog | - Houston Chronicle

Will you get an iPad when it comes out in Canada (late April is the prediction I heard this morning)? This short analysis may help you decide.

5 things I love, 5 things I hate about the iPad | TechBlog | - Houston Chronicle

Personally, I'd love one for whenever I'm away from home. But reading books on a 1.5 lb. gizmo? Sounds heavy.

I'm really enjoying reading on my iPod touch, though. I downloaded a free app with 100 classic books which has a built in reader. It's not as smooth as the Kindle, but has worked through the whole of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Of course the (free) iPhone/iPod Kindle app provides a beautiful reading environment.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ten rules for writing fiction x a whole bunch of authors

Ten rules for writing fiction by Elmore Leonard and a whole bunch of other authors:
Ten rules for writing fiction | Books |

Of course after reading that, you'll want to read "A reader's advice to writers."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Heads-up on these...

Our latest The Word Guild Bulletin contains links to a lot of fine resources.

Here are some poetry-publishing (and other genres too) opportunities:

Here are a few articles on craft.

Also FYI: a couple of rants about punctuation from Taddle Creed Mag
  • "The Period" - about no extra spaces after punctuation

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Good to know if you review historicals

This great little article helped me understand a special type of historical novel - the Regency. Apparently there are two kinds, the Regency and the Regency Historical. I looked for info while reviewing Julie Klassen's The Silent Governess, which, according to Mary Jo Putney's definition, is a bona fide Regency:

"The Regency vs. the Regency Historical: A Regency Expert Explains the Difference.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

D. W. Smith on Literary Agents

Interesting piece putting the boot to the popular notion that as a writer you're doomed without an agent. If we're to take Mr. Smith at face value, we might be more doomed with one.

Dean Wesley Smith » Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Agents Know Markets

h/t: N. J. Lindquist

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

open-pore writing

"...I do believe when you are in a continuous practice and drafting stage (I was scribbling on receipts, napkins, and my hand when I wasn’t in front of my desk), and your pores are just open and alive to the possibilities of language and wordplay all around us, then nine times out of ten, the writing does come out the way I want it to come out—a nice mix of deliberation, supposition, utter surprise, and a dash of hocus-pocus ‘Where-did-THAT-image-come-from?"’ 
- Aimee Nezhukumatathil

From the blog How A Poem Happens, in conversation with Aimee about her poem "Small Murders".

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Start 2010 unblocked

A blog which I've been reading lately is Lateral Action. Its author Mark McGuinness (poet and creativity coach) talks a lot about creativity. Right now he's running a series called "Break Through Your Creative Blocks."

In article one - "Creative Block #1 - I'm not creative" - he debunks a lot of the theories about creativity and settles on the simplest definition: "A creative person is a person who creates things." Then he lends readers a hand by giving them a four-step process for every project they start. They can:
1. Set a goal
2. Determine options: "What is the next action I can take, that I think is likely to get me a step nearer my goal?"
3. Actions - Do it.
4. Review - Ask, "Have I reached my goal?" If yes, congratulations. If not, recycle through steps 1-3.

In article two - "Creative Block #2 - Fear of getting it wrong" he speaks to people who have had creative success in the past and now feel blocked because they know their current efforts will never measure up to past successes. His RX:
1. Write with your body.
2. Stop worrying.
3. Start getting things wrong.
4. Stick two fingers up at the critics.
5. Get good feedback.
6. Grant yourself poetic license.

If you are feeling stuck, stodgy and non-creative, this series might just be a good one to follow. I'm not sure when the next installment will be posted. However, it is possible to subscribe by email or RSS feed so as not to miss a single one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 road map

It’s hard to believe we’re already into the second week of January!

I must admit I’ve begun this year in a semi-preoccupied state. I think that’s because I started writing a daily devotional blog in January and several hours each morning are taken up with that. It’s gone well so far, though I’ve missed my annual beginning of January stock-taking – the type of thing I do in morning hours when I’m now focused on other things.

Last week this post on agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog reminded me of my oversight. She references a piece on “How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick” by Michael Hyatt. It’s excellent and I’ll be praying over and working through that in the next little while. Hopefully I’ll get some destinations entered on my 2010 road map (both the personal and writing versions) before January 2010 is history.

What about you - do you feel the need to make resolutions or do some kind of past analysis, forward visioning at the beginning of the year?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Write short poems - enter contests!

If one of your resolutions this January is to write more poetry, don’t let the task overwhelm you. Remember poems don’t have to be long!

My latest Poets Classroom article, “Shorter, Shortest” is a delve into some very short forms, the Clerihew (four lines), Haiku (three lines), Haiga (three lines) and Bantu (two lines). It follows the December article, “Short” which talks about three forms of five-line poetry: Tanka, Cinquain and Limerick.

And while you’re on the Utmost site, check out the annual Utmost Christian Poetry Contest. Contest-meister Nathan Harms tells us only a handful of poems have been received to date. This contest awards $3000 in cash prizes, so with less entries than usual this may be your year to cash in! Due date for entries is February 28, 2010.