Friday, February 26, 2010

Grading Secrets: How to Raise Your Grade

Here is a secret about grading: I want my students to do well.

Grading is not a mysterious, subjective process. To give you some background, here is my process: In all of my writing classes, students hand in rough drafts and then final drafts. I fill out a rubric and offer customized notes to each student on each draft. I want them to learn that writing is a process that requires many drafts. I spend hours reading drafts, looking at earlier drafts and responding to the papers. I expect students to read my comments and respond to them with either questions or revised drafts.

Your grades reflect your work. When students email me to thank me for a grade, I respond and tell them that they earned the grade. I don’t give gifts in the form of grades.

I don’t give good grades because I like a student more. I don’t give bad grades because I disagreed with the politics of a subject. I don’t give a certain number of As, Bs, Cs, Ds or Fs because there is a grade quota that I must fulfill. I promise, I read your papers. Don’t include foul language checking to see if I’m reading your papers or “subliminal messages” because I’ll find them.

Here are a few hints about how you can immediately raise a grade in any class:

Follow the instructions. If the assignment asks for a paper to be a certain length, fulfill it. Don’t turn in a paper that is too short. If you find yourself writing a much longer paper, edit it down. It is often easier to write a meandering paper. Show your ability to write by fulfilling the page or word count.

Respond to the rough draft comments offered by the professor. Don’t miss this opportunity to fulfill the assignment’s requirements. If your professor asks you to write in the third person and you wrote in the first person on the rough draft, revise your paper appropriately. I can’t tell you how many times I write on a final draft, “Similar to the rough draft, your paper still…” If your professor spent time sharing suggestions with you, why not follow them? If the professor wrote suggestions that do not move the argument in the direction that you intended, perhaps your paper isn’t fully supporting the argument you had in mind. In this case, it is a good idea to revisit your argument and discuss the issue with your professor.

Spell check your paper. It is simple to use your word processor to edit your paper for spelling and grammar errors. If you see a red or green line under a word or phrase, look at it again. The computer makes mistakes. It can’t know your intentions and is sometimes wrong, but it is a starting point. With the technology we have available to us, it is inexcusable to hand in a paper with spelling errors.

Revise your paper. Do not hand in a final draft that is identical to the rough draft.

Credit your sources and avoid plagiarism at all costs. Professors can easily spot when a sentence or paragraph is written by someone else. The voice, tone and language change. If you can Google a subject and find information to cut and paste into your paper, we can cut and paste the suspicious line and find it too.

In college-level classes, don’t quote from Wikipedia, traditional encyclopedias, dictionaries or Spark Notes. You can do better than that. Look for primary sources in your library database. Consider the merits of your sources before you quote from them. Sure, you can look at Wikipedia or a dictionary as you are writing a paper. Use these general resources to help you become familiar with the subject. Then, follow the links to the primary sources and use those.

If you have the opportunity to revise a paper for a higher grade, why not do that? Be familiar with the syllabus that should outline the possibilities. Not only will your grade rise, but you will learn from the rewrite and the professor will remember how much work you are putting in to the class.

By fulfilling the basic requirements of the assignment and paying attention to previous feedback, the professor can offer you a more in-depth response to your paper. Let your professors help you and focus on the subject matter. Yes, then you’ll find yourself with a higher grade. The grade represents your hard work and what you’ve learned.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Flarf Poetry & Writing Prompt

The word “Flarf” makes me laugh. The idea itself makes me laugh a little, too. Flarf is a poem written with words from a search engine search. The results are surprising, nonsensical, confusing, shocking and sometimes funny. It is a lot like a Found poem, only with a purely technical, pro-active side.

What do Flarf poems mean? Perhaps the lack of meaning, the stolen, gibberish quality of the final poem is the point. The world is changing and so is poetry. Writers are responding to the manic influx of words, word arrangement and meaning.

While I don’t think I’ll be sending out Flarf poems for publication, I think the process presents a wonderful writing exercise opportunity.

As poet Drew Gardener said in “Can Flarf Ever Be Taken Seriously?” published in Poets & Writers Magazine, "What we were really doing was throwing out rules that were constraining and ridiculous and weren't fitting anymore. Once we did that, we could do whatever we wanted—we weren't trying to ask: Is this magazine going to like this? Is this poet going to like this? Is my teacher going to like this? We just got rid of all of it and went nuts."

Writing Prompt:

To get your creative minds stretched this morning, I recommend trying to write a Flarf poem. Choose a few random words (perhaps from a blog or news website you log into every morning) and Google like crazy. See what you come up with. By cutting and pasting or writing in a notebook (so low-tech!) by your computer, write down the exciting, dull and even shocking words that you come up with. You can push the idea further through odd pairings. Start with a food blog and move to a politician’s homepage and then try an emo band’s myspace page.

The final step is to craft these words into a poem. Don’t work too hard to construct a meaningful poem with a final punch. Forget about grammar and sense. Go ahead, be sentimental and wild. See what new ideas break through.

To read more about Flarf, I recommend this article published in Poetry, “Flarf is Dionysus. Conceptual Writing is Apollo: An introduction to the 21st Century's most controversial poetry movements” by Kenneth Goldsmith.

I hope you’ll share your experiences below.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

5th Annual Sharing Hope Dinner Dance in benefit of the American Brain Tumor Association

If you are in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area, I hope you will consider attending a dinner and auction to raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association on March 6th. Perhaps you’ll win one of my donations: a poetry broadside or an hour of coaching on your writing project.

For more information on the evening event, please see the website.

5th Annual Sharing Hope Dinner Dance

Start Date: 03/06/2010

Location: Holiday Inn Select, Swedesboro, NJ

Contact Name: Judy Schoeffling-Morris

Contact Email:

Phone: 856-467-9666

Brain tumor survivor Judy Schoeffling-Morris is hosting her 5th Annual Sharing Hope Dinner Dance on Saturday, March 6, 2010, at the Holiday Inn Select in Swedesboro, NJ. The evening will feature dinner and dancing along with Chinese and silent auctions. Tickets are $75 and includes a cocktail hour, appetizers and buffet dinner. For more information on this event, or to make your reservation, please contact Judy at 856-467-9666 or

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Alliance of Artists Communities: Research writing residencies

It can be overwhelming to research writing residencies. The Alliance of Artists Communities’ website allows you to search for residencies by discipline (visual arts are also included in this site), season you’d like to attend, domestic or international opportunities, etc. There are also some job opportunities.

Here is their description of the alliance:

There are places — hundreds of them, in fact — where artists of all disciplines can go to work on their art: painters and playwrights, filmmakers and fiction writers, composers, choreographers, printmakers and poets, sculptors, scholars, and songwriters.

The Alliance of Artists Communities is a national and international association of artists’ communities and residencies — a diverse field of more than 1,000 programs worldwide that support artists of any discipline in the development of new creative work.

Supporting today’s artists in the creation of new work is essential to human progress — not as a luxury, not as a leisure activity, but as a vital and necessary force in society. Artists’ communities are not about retreat; they are about advancement. Advancing creativity. Advancing human progress. Advancing the way we examine the world. In short, they are research-and-development labs for the arts, providing artists with time, space, and support for the creation of new work and the exploration of new ideas.

The products of that work — books, paintings, songs and symphonies, poems and plays, designs and dances, films and photographs — often surface months or years later. And while supporting museums, bookstores, orchestras and theaters is essential in providing artists avenues to showcase their work, artists’ communities offer an opportunity to invest in creation, in the leaps of imagination and risk-taking that compel a person to put pen to page, or fingers to keyboard, or brush to canvas in the first place. These moments often happen in private, away from public view, but they happen every day at any one of more than 800 artists’ communities around the world.

No other field is dedicated solely to the creation of new work among independent artists, and for this, artists’ communities play a vital role in our human progress.

Field at a Glance

• an estimated 500 artists’ communities in the US and approximately 1,000 worldwide

• 15,000 artists are in residence each year

• residencies provide $40 million in support to artists annually

• 65% are multidisciplinary, serving visual artists, writers, composers, filmmakers, choreographers, and others

• 60% are in rural areas and small towns, while 40% are in urban areas

• 75% are engaged in eco-stewardship – including historic preservation, land conservation, and sustainable living practices

• 90% have public programs that engage the local community

You may not have heard of artists’ communities, but you’ve most likely heard of the artists they have served, and some of the works that have been created there: Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Gregory MacGuire’s Wicked; Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me With Apples, Tender At the Bone, and Garlic and Sapphires; Thornton Wilder’s Our Town; Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; Allen Ginsberg, David Sedaris, Marcel Duchamp, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Robert Rauschenberg, James Baldwin, John Lennon, Truman Capote, Bill T. Jones, Spalding Gray, Leonard Bernstein, Edward Albee, Langston Hughes, Liz Lerman, Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bob Dylan, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and many, many more.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing Prompt: Who (or What) Inspires You?

I’ve noticed folks on Facebook creating photographic lists of inspiring famous people. Who or what inspires *you*? Was it a book you read in elementary school that convinced you that writing can be magical? A painting in a small museum? A vista you saw while camping? Something a teacher said? Your best friend’s dollhouse? The feeling in your legs after running your first marathon? Inspiration comes in many forms.

As a writing prompt, think about at least one person (or landscape or material object) that has inspired you to write. Describe that inspiration in words. If you get stuck with the description, try to rely on your five senses to further your language.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mira’s List

It is about that time to start thinking about summer writing conferences and workshops. It can be tricky to find ones that fit your interests and budget exactly. Once you do, it is important to research them and make sure that they live up to your expectations and level of expertise.

To start your research for programs and funding opportunities, I want to bring your attention to an amazing resource: Mira’s List. This blog, run by author and artist Mira Bartók, regularly announces opportunities to apply for that usually include grants and residencies. Be sure to look through her list of links.

Here is how she describes her blog in a nutshell:
GRANTS. FELLOWSHIPS. RESIDENCIES. RESOURCES. Mira's List is a free blog for artists, writers, composers and others in the arts. Here you will find up-to-date information, resources and deadlines for grants, fellowships and international residencies. Money, time and a place to create.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Email Etiquette

When I use the word “etiquette,” I don’t mean to conjure up rules about how to sit in a skirt. Instead, I suggest that there are guidelines regarding email that will help you to better communicate with the other person. You don’t have to be overly formal, but you do have to be precise. Good writing effectively communicates your thoughts, even in an email.

Email Greetings
Almost every day, I receive an email from a student that begins, “yo” or “hey” or “Mr.” (The “Mr.” is always the most baffling.) At the very least, in the beginning of an email conversation (Gmail groups emails into conversations), greet your reader. Say “hello” in a manner that is appropriate to your reader. For example, if you are writing to your friend, perhaps you don’t even need a greeting. If you are writing to your professor, perhaps a quick “Dear + name” or “Good morning” is appropriate.

I’ve received emails that are missing all punctuation and capitalization. Once, I received an email that simply said, “huh?” Frankly, I can’t always understand these emails. I want to; believe me, I do. If I did, I could quickly respond and continue with my work. Without understanding, I have to ask a number of follow-up questions and it takes longer than necessary. Meanwhile, the student has a question and can’t work on his or her work.

Therefore, in the body of your email, include all relevant material. Most of us adjuncts teach a number of classes at a number of schools. If you mention what class you are in, what assignment you are working on and give other relevant background to your question (are you responding to the assignment sheet? Feedback on your last essay?), then I can more easily help you.

I encourage students to ask questions, especially in online classes. Perhaps something is unclear and I can help everyone by answering the question on the Blackboard page. It is helpful to know what you understand because it allows me to better teach the class. Don’t see this as a post about why you shouldn’t write to your professor, but rather how to do it more effectively so that you can learn as much as possible.

Don’t forget to sign your emails, especially if your email address is something like “fuzzypartygirl22.” Let me know who you are. This also helps to keep your emails out of the spam folder. Even better, use your school email account.

I receive so many incomprehensible emails that I’ve started to include a quick section about email etiquette on my syllabus. Here is what I wrote on one syllabus this semester:

Careful writing and reading are important skills that you will use throughout your lives, no matter what profession you choose. This course offers you a number of opportunities to practice those skills. For example, if you write me an email asking a question, please edit, revise and spell-check your email before you send it. Here is a great link to a page that discusses proper email etiquette.

Email etiquette stretches across professions. In fact, this Thanksgiving, my family and friends in a variety of fields, from academia to the legal professional to the medical profession, mourned the loss of email etiquette.

What would you add to these suggestions?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is Facebooking Useful for Writers or Just a Waste of Time?

I usually log into Facebook when I wake up and don’t log out until I turn my computer off for the night. Right, just like an addict. Sometimes I leave my computer for a while when I have an appointment, but I stay logged in.

It isn’t all a waste of time, although of course, some of it is. It depends on how you use it.

Facebook, just like other forms of social media such as Linkedin,, etc., has its advantages to writers. Besides networking and getting to know authors who you might be able to meet otherwise or keep in touch with those writing friends who live far away, you can join or fan groups to keep up on the news about publications, submissions, readings, etc. Almost every literary magazine, literary organization, reading series or press out there is on Facebook. They’ll send notes about submissions, readings, etc.

Two of my favorites on FB:

Living in Ann Arbor, I “befriended” the University of Michigan MFA in Creative Writing Program so I could read about upcoming readings and lectures.

Fishouse Poems, which is an online audio collection of emerging authors, has a Facebook group that announces new work posted on its website.

You can justify the “waste of time” side of it as character research for your short story. Someone would really write about her fake boob job? Or that friend with opposing political beliefs joined what group with the nasty photos? Yes, it is addictive. Try to stay on point and use it the way you would a book fair or writing conference – meet people, talk about writing and learn about opportunities. Ok, and gossip just a little.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Poem "Nest" Published in Lines + Stars

Thanks to DC area literary journal Lines + Stars for publishing my poem Nest. I hope you will stay a while and read all of the lovely pieces.

Poems can be fictional, although they are often inspired by real life events or emotional truths. In this poem, I responded to an actual bird’s nest that was built outside of my parents’ screened-in porch. These being quite urban, New Jersey birds, their nests weren’t only made from natural debris. Whenever we would walk out the screen door, one of the birds who kept guard above would swoop down and fly hard into our backs. These were fierce birds!

It was also a reflection on moving in with my now-husband for the first time. Our search for a home in another, far-away state wasn’t easy, but we did find an apartment that seemed just right.

Ultimately, we are all searching for the safe place we call home.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Writing a Corporate Report & Composition Writing

A friend in the corporate world was recently talking about writing a twenty page business report. At first, it seemed daunting. Then, she broke down the process the same way she learned to write research papers in college.

She employed an outline, bullet points with main ideas and answered the journalistic questions who, what, where, when, why and how in every section. She explained that the writing must be precise and meaningful, no matter how much jargon might be expected.

Across the genres, fields and levels of expertise, good writing is simply good writing. It must stay focused and clearly support and explain a main point. The reader shouldn’t get lost in a flurry of extra words. The reader, easily distracted, should be drawn into the writing and clearly offered main points.

Thank you to my friend for reminding us how the skills learned in English Comp 101 will prove necessary throughout our careers.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Heart Poets.Org for Valentine’s Day offers readers a selection of love poems and Poetry Valentines that you can send to your beloved. You can also send a Valentine Poem Flow: a Valentine with animated text.

Of course, you can also write your own love poem for your sweetness. Here is one entitled “Salty” that I wrote for my husband a few years ago and was published last year for Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Peer Editing

I always assign peer editing in my composition and creative writing classes. Contrary to the groans and complaints, these assignments relate directly to the real world experiences of working writers.

When peer editing, the author and the peer editor benefit equally. The author receives honest feedback from someone who is willing to say when something works and when something doesn’t work in the text. The peer editor has a chance to hone his editing skills on someone else’s work, which will make editing his own work easier later.

It isn’t always easy to offer up your work for peer editing. You’ve worked hard on your piece and don’t want to find out something is wrong with it. With a good peer editor, though, you’ll find out both what works and what needs improving. A peer editor should always start with the positives and explain why and how something was done well. If the writer understands what was done well and where, it will be easier for the writer to repeat the success in future pieces.

Most writers peer edit throughout their careers, although they will call it “workshopping.” By having someone else – with those clichéd and vital “fresh eyes” – read our work, we will often notice something that we missed. With that information, it is easier to return to the work and continue to edit and revise it.

Peer editing works best when the author presents the reader with questions. These questions can be as broad as, “Does the piece work? Can you follow the plot?” to specific questions like, “Does the tone work in the third paragraph? Is the dialogue on the second page authentic?” These questions help to lead the peer editor to examine problem spots in the text.

I always recommend to writers to have a number of readers. Different readers have different skills at catching potential problems. For example, some are better proofreaders for punctuation errors and others are experts at constructing a story arc. Sometimes, you just need a little encouragement from a reader who you know is likely to enjoy your work (a parent? best friend?)

Recently, a friend shared part of her novel with me to read. I offered a couple of line-by-line edits concerning punctuation typos and some larger comments on issues such as the physical relationship of the character to her peers and the tone of some of the dialogue. I enjoyed reading her work and was inspired by her dedication to the longer work. I look forward to sharing some of my work with her.

Do I expect this author to take all of my advice? No, of course not. She will make the final decisions regarding her work based on her view of the text as a whole. Through my suggestions, she can consider what works and what doesn’t. If I stumbled in a section, perhaps it means that something is unclear, but my suggestions regarding where to take the piece might not correspond with her final idea for the novel.

It is helpful to have a local writing group or friend who is willing to peer edit your work. The deadline of regular meetings and the suggestions for your writing will prove helpful. If you don’t live close to trusted readers, you can always peer edit via email, a phone call or Skype.

If you are a beginning writer taking a composition writing class, there is no reason why you can’t share your work with your peers, even if it isn’t assigned. As long as your peer editor offers you advice and doesn’t rewrite your paper for you, you can learn immeasurably by discussing your work. If your peer editor offers a great idea for your subject matter, there’s no reason why you can’t cite that person’s idea with an in-text citation and Works Cited entry to avoid plagiarism.

Happy writing and sharing your writing! Remember, writing is a process and takes many drafts. Peer editing helps you to move towards a more polished piece.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day Writing Prompts

The Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region are slowed down by snow today. To this writer, that means a chance to sit back with some hot cocoa, a pen and my favorite journal to write. Sometimes I start with a writing prompt.

Writing prompts help writers to move their words in a new direction. Today, let’s try using the snow as a prompt. For this exercise, write for five minutes – nonstop – on the prompts that inspire you. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or logic. If you can’t think of anything to write, you can simply repeat the word “snow.”

Why reject the mechanics of writing and editing? Why not ponder your ideas and carefully craft each sentence or verse? Because a writing prompt is meant to jiggle the ideas in your mind and reach for something new. After you’ve written nonstop, return and underline the phrases, sentences or even simply the words that you can expand upon more slowly and with more reflection. You never know what you’ll find!


1. Write for five minutes describing the snow according to all or one of the five senses.

2. Animate the snow. If it were living and could make decisions (perhaps it seems like it already can!), what would it do? Where would it go? What would it say?

3. Describe your first experience with snow.

4. If you were to make a recipe using snow (think beyond Italian ice at the Boardwalk… be creative), what would you make?

Looking for more inspiration? Read these poems involving snow on Poets.Org. 

If you enjoy these prompts, consider taking my online memoir writing class this May. An number of prompts will be offered in an effort to help mine your memories and create something original.

You are welcome to share your responses or writings in the Comment box below.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Integrating Writing & Life

My to do list includes short term projects, like sending out a poem to a contest and doing to the laundry, to long term projects, like finishing a memoir and learning Greek. The list is endless and takes many forms. It can seem simply ridiculous at times.

So how does a daily writing practice fit between the cracks of a daily work schedule, errands and long term projects, not to mention sleeping at night?

It can fit in, although perhaps not daily.

Every writer has a different method that works for her. Some writers will tell you that they wake up an hour before everyone else or stay up an extra hour. Others might sneak in some writing on the bus or on lunch breaks. Some rely on writing retreats for focused periods of writing. Many of us write in spurts, myself included.

It is important to know your body’s rhythm and use it to your advantage. Some of us are naturally morning, afternoon or night people. Take advantage of the time of day when you feel most productive. Save the errands and the other thoughtless activities for the period when you are least thoughtful.

Set deadlines for yourself. Decide to have a draft/chapter/page count by a certain date. Workshopping your work with peers helps a lot with this. If you decide to meet monthly to discuss new work, you will be motivated to find the time to write and edit before the meeting. Use peer pressure positively. It can be helpful to take a class, too, to motivate you to craft something new regularly.

Keep submission opportunities listed by date. Then, you can not only write, but also edit in time for contests, open submission periods, etc.

Whatever you do, it is important to write, edit and read as much as possible. Be reasonable with yourself, though. Don’t set impossible deadlines. Sometimes there is something urgent to deal with and you can’t write for a period. Never give up. Once you have some time, start writing again. And again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Call for Submissions: Essay Anthology by Women in Jewish Interfaith Relationships

The wonderful author Hila Ratzabi is editing an essay anthology that will feature essays by women who are in an interfaith relationship in which one of the partners is Jewish.

For more information, please read the call for submissions. Here is what Hila writes on the site:

I am a graduate of the MFA in Writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and am developing an essay anthology that will feature essays by women who are in (or have been in) an interfaith relationship or marriage, in which one of the partners is Jewish (the contributors may be the Jewish or non-Jewish partner). An amorphous body of this literature is floating around the internet, notably on the website Sociology books on the topic of Jewish intermarriage abound, as do practical guidebooks for marriage and parenting. But what is often missing from the existing literature are human stories. This collection of personal essays will focus specifically on women’s stories, about the joys and challenges of their relationships, their experiences with child-rearing, how they relate to their communities and families, how they create their own identities in the unique “liminal zone” of the interfaith relationship.

I am looking for, first and foremost, great, well-written, vivid personal stories. I welcome published and unpublished authors to submit their essays/stories. The length may be 1,000-2,000 words (but I am open to any reasonable length, shorter or longer). The tone/style should not be polemical or sentimental, just an honest and compelling non-fiction personal narrative. (You may want to take a look at the excellent anthology, Half/Life, edited by Laurel Snyder and published by Soft Skull Press, which features the stories of adults who were raised in Jewish interfaith homes.)


- I’m focusing only on Jewish interfaith relationships, because the phenomenon in the Jewish community takes on a very particular valence that distinguishes it from the phenomenon in other communities, even as there may be some overlap

- There are many wonderful narratives told by men in interfaith relationships, but I believe it is important to highlight women in this particular anthology. An anthology of men’s essays would be a separate project.

- I invite queer women to submit—you may deserve your own anthology as well, but your interfaith experiences probably have much in common with those of heterosexual women.

- We often hear about Jewish-Christian interfaith relationships—I would love to hear from those in relationships where the non-Jewish partner is also non-Christian.

- For those of you who are poets and fiction writers, I’m looking only for non-fiction, and I love non-fiction written by poets and fiction writers.

- If you consider your relationship inter-something other than faith (culture, race), and one partner identifies as Jewish, I want to hear from you, too.

- I do not have a publisher yet, but I solemnly promise to get one.

Please send submissions as a Word attachment (not .docx) to Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis through May 1st, 2010—earlier is better, though. Include your name, a short bio, and email address. Responses will be sent by September 1st, 2010. Thank you, and I look forward to reading your stories!

Hila Ratzabi, Editor

Friday, February 5, 2010

Children’s Gift: Valentine’s Day Broadside

Looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day present for your favorite wee one? I created a children’s Valentine’s Day Broadside on Etsy.

The original poem is handwritten over hand painted watercolor stars. The gift is ready to be framed.

I wrote this poem describing love and the heart for my nephew who loves to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Here is the complete poem:

Palm over heart – feel your song.

It carries oxygen, blood,

you, even others.

When someone loves you,

and your heart answers,

you sing a duet. Sometimes a chorus of

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky!

Your heart is the same as life itself,

on Earth, in the sky, and inside of you.

Feel it?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do You Follow the Practicing Writing Blog by Erika Dreifus Yet?

If you aren’t already a subscriber to the Practicing Writing blog, I encourage you to sign up today. The practicing writer herself Erika Dreifus shares writing tips and resources. It is free and helpful to any serious writer. Here is her description:

You'll find updates on writing and publishing opportunities (especially handy between issues of our popular monthly newsletter). You'll discover ONLY opportunities that charge no fees, and ONLY publications/contests that will pay for your writing. The blog also shares writing-related Web news and resources, book reviews, and occasional news about this practicing writer's own work.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winner Announced!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poetry book give-away!

Congratulations to Marsha Rosenzweig Pincus who won the drawing! She will receive a signed copy of Jee Leong Koh’s Equal to the Earth.

If you haven’t read Jee Leong Koh’s work, I encourage you to order a copy of his book from Bench Press Poetry. You also don’t want to miss his blog, Song of a Reformed Headhunter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Participate to Win a Signed Poetry Book!

I’ve heard it said that a true poet regularly gives readings, publishes and lives for his poetry. Everything the poet does influences, is influenced by and is connected to his poetry. This description fits my dear friend Jee Leong Koh. I’ve known this since we became friends in graduate school at Sarah Lawrence College. His thoughtful and tender responses to the world in his poetry will bring you to a quiet place of understanding. His formal poems will teach you craft. Simply put, you’ll enjoy your time with his words.

To be eligible to win Jee Leong Koh’s first full-length collection, Equal to the Earth, share this blog’s link ( with friends and comment here. The contest ends at midnight EST on Tuesday, February 2. The winner’s name will be drawn out of a top hat on Wednesday, February 3.


1. Link to this blog online and share something about the blog with your friends. You can do this on your website, blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account, LinkedIn update, Meetup group, etc.) If you don’t have something to link to, please email the link to at least three friends.

2. Return to the comments section of this post and let us know where you linked to us.

3. Come back on Wednesday to see if you’ve won! The winner’s name will be posted after being drawn out of a top hat.

4. The winner will be asked to send his or her address privately to receive a free, signed copy of the book from the author.

More about author Jee Leong Koh and his book, Equal to the Earth:

In his first full-length collection, Koh speaks with a range of voices--ancestral, recent and contemporary--and travels a span of ground to investigate the imaginary claims of community and self. At the center of this investigation, as of the book, lies the great question of love.

Koh is also the author of Payday Loans, a book of sonnets. His poetry has appeared in Best New Poets and Best Gay Poetry. Born in Singapore, he now lives in New York City, and blogs at Song of a Reformed Headhunter.

"Koh is a vigorous, physical poet very much captured by the expressive power of rhythm, rhetoric, and the lexicon. He is also, paradoxically, a poet in pursuit of the most elusive and delicate of human emotions. The contradiction is wonderful and compelling, and so are his poems."
—Vijay Seshadri, author of The Long Meadow (Graywolf Press)

"His poems are like the sexy nerd you meet at a bar, the one you really want to get to know better—with his glasses and ties on and nothing else."
—Christopher Hennessy, Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets (University of Michigan Press)

"Smart, irreverent, often unnerving, these sonnets smirk, smile, argue and bless. Jee Leong Koh has taken a month of days and rendered a very contemporary version of the artist as a young man."
—Marie Howe, on Koh’s Payday Loans

From Equal to the Earth:


In mother’s womb, we started as a pair of lungs,

sea slugs hanging on to a reef. We grew toe rays,

brain sponges and gonads relaxed by the liquid song.

The Doppler ultrasound echoed our submarine

and found us one. The truth was monozygotic—

we sucked each other’s nub of thumb inside the brine.

When, headfirst, we were unceremoniously expelled,

we were halved like an egg sliced with a line of hair.

A beak plucked at the cord and knotted my navel.

Mother never speaks of you although I know

you were with me at sea. How else to understand

my panic playing hide and seek, the cracked canoe,

wet dreams of touching a man, waking up, a curse

crying, not knowing why, like a turtle washed ashore,

a lacquered carapace—these shimmering absences?