Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hello, Summer!



Summer is here and you might have less time (kids home?), more time (less work?) or the same (day job that doesn't change based on the season?)

I'm here to encourage you to keep writing. Every season, I like a healthy writing reassessment: What progress have you made? What are your new or continued goals? How and when will you meet them?

Carve out some writing time this summer. That is, time when the ringer is off and your door is closed. Or maybe you are sitting at the library with headphones on. Whatever it is, put writing on your to-do list and treat it like an appointment. Show up. Open a word document or your notebook. And write. Read it over and revise. Read something published by someone who moves you.

For more on writing self-evaluations, here is another post and yet another one that might help you to ask the right questions to move forward. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Give the Gift of a Literary Magazine Subscription

Today is my birthday and instead of feeling all the gloom and doom that a "zero" birthday could leave me with, I offer a birthday gift recommendation for anyone any season: A literary magazine subscription. Most literary magazines are run by small groups of hardworking, big-hearted volunteers. They can use all the financial support you can muster. If you are reading them and submitting your work to them, you should support them, too.

Why not give someone a literary magazine subscription today? You might even make it a habit to regularly subscribe to one to three magazines a year for yourself. As a writer, you'll get to know what the editors of one magazine are looking for and become better acquainted with contemporary writers.

Not sure what magazine you or your friend might love the most? You might try looking through lists and databases of literary magazines from:
New Pages
Poets & Writers
The Review Review

What is your favorite literary magazine?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Focus Your Editing With Lists & Re-Readings

We often re-read our pieces over and over during the revising and editing process. It is impossible to catch every possible error, awkward moment or inconsistency during a single reading. We might auto-correct in our minds or even while reading the work aloud. 

Here's my editing tip: Read your work with only one issue in mind at a time. And then read it again with another issue in mind. (And yes, this will take a while.)

Start by making a list with two columns. In one column, write a list of the top 5-10 things you usually do well. Then, in the second column, write a list of the top 5-10 things that often trip up your writing. 

Here is an incomplete list of some things you might include in one of the columns: 
Verb tense consistency
Punctuation (particularly commas)
Verb strength (Do you rely on conjugated forms of "to be" often or do you choose more muscular verbs? Do your verbs need adverbs in order to offer a clear action?)
Noun strength (Do you need many adjectives to clarify your objects?)
Plot (Use your outline to check that you have a clear narrative arc)
Character development and consistency

Read through your writing with one of these issues in mind at a time. Start with the list of the things you usually do well. Do you continue to do them well? Then move onto the harder issues: the list of things that don't come as easily.

Don't forget to give yourself some time between readings. Waiting at least a day between a major revision and another revision will help you to have the necessary distance from the piece to edit and revise it. 

What editing and revising tips do you rely on? Click through for more posts on editing and revising

Monday, May 9, 2016

Write!

1. We write to understand. 
2. Our discoveries are our readers' discoveries. 

These two statements have become cliches because they are true.

There is often a line or idea that haunts me, but I don't write it. And then I stop writing because that something is all that I can think about.

Maybe I'm hesitant to write because I don't yet understand the emotion, maybe I feel ashamed or maybe I feel as though I shouldn't reveal a certain secret.

When I'm stuck like this, here is what I try to remind myself: No one has to read early drafts. I might need to write something in order to move past it. This early work might be more therapeutic than craft-oriented. Maybe my readers wouldn't even understand what I was writing anyway.

If I later spend time revising and editing the original piece, I might come closer to something that is ready to be submitted to literary magazines or belongs in a book manuscript. Maybe that original idea, even if it is somehow shameful, can be masked behind a metaphor. I can share the emotion, one that others have likely felt, without disclosing my deepest secrets. This isn't to say that I can't share certain secrets, of course, but there might be times when it isn't necessary for the piece or a larger truth.

This is all to say that you should write whatever it is that you feel compelled to write. See where it takes you. And then revise, revise, revise. 


Monday, April 18, 2016

Thursday is Poem in your Pocket Day

Print out, copy or write a poem to keep in your pocket on Thursday, Poem in your Pocket Day. Then  share the words with your friends, family and colleagues throughout the day.

The Academy of American Poets has put together a great PDF with poems you might download and print out (or store on your mobile device.)

You might look for inspiration in Split this Rock's Quarry, a social justice poetry database.

Have a verse in mind, but you don't remember the author or title? The Library of Congress has put together some great resources for Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes: How to Find a Novel, Short Story, or Poem Without Knowing its Title or Author.

You might try Columbia University's free trial access to Granger's World of Poetry Online in order to find that perfect poem.

Whatever you do, give yourself a few extra moments to read through some poems and then read one or two aloud with someone else. Give the poem new life with your breath. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy National Poetry Month!


April is National Poetry Month! I hope you'll celebrate by reading a new poet or two and writing some poems, too. Here are some ways to get started:

Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 21. Print out a poem or copy a poem down and carry it around for the day. Share it with your friends.

Sign up for a poem a day emailed to you by the Academy of American Poets or the Poetry Foundation (with audio.)

Write in response to a prompt a day from Robert Brewer at Writers Digest.

Listen to poets read their poems at Fishouse or watch video poems by Motionpoems.

Shop independent bookstores for poetry. Washington D.C. based Politics and Prose bookstore is featuring poetry collections on their website.

Read and support (subscribe!) a poetry literary magazine. Find one through Poets & Writers' database.

If you're in D.C., hear Malachi Black, Laurie Ann Guerrero, and A. Van Jordan read their original sonnets at the Folger Shakespeare Library on April 11th and attend Split this Rock's Poetry Festival April 14 - 17.

If you're in NYC, visit Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop or Poets House

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Finding Time

The endless cliches about time slipping through our fingers are cliches for a reason. Our time each day is finite.

If we only have short bursts of time to write, revise, submit and read each day, how can we make those few minutes count?

Reading my current piece each morning and at night helps me to work through it even when I'm not technically writing. If I choose a particular "problem" or, more positively, "challenge," to sort out during the day, then I can attempt to focus on that during down moments (laundry, washing the dishes.) I might even email myself a copy of the piece so that I review it on the phone at any point in the day.

How do you best use your time for writing?