Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the Throes of Thursday-Learning

Before my post here's a note to remind me I have a goal these days. ROW80 GOAL: short by a few hundred words, but I have tomorrow! :-) Good luck to Sheri Larson, Margo Berendsen, and Susan Kaye Quinn on reaching their goals this week.

And now . . . .

It's interesting how sometimes you're trudging along, asking yourself, "What am I doing? Why?" And kapow, the answer is right there. It always was; you just didn't pay attention.

Usually, those kinds of answers come from seeing or hearing something, and then connecting that to what's been niggling at you. I had that happen yesterday and from two unrelated sources. 

I'd just asked myself the "What . . .Why am I doing this?" questions when I joined a chat group called #ntchat (New Teacher Chat).  Most of their exchanges were about sharing information among colleagues and how that influences teaching. 


I remembered how much I shared with teachers both when I first started and when I became a mentor. A lot of influence going on all those years--a lot of learning. So I jumped into the chat fray with something like how much I loved learning, experimenting, teaching old things in new ways.


There is went again and LEARNING flashed in my brain. That was why I'd enjoyed teaching.

#ntchat ends at the same time #yalitchat begins, so being totally jazzed with chat already, I joined the second group. @gregpincus was hosting. His topic was Creating Opportunity--Your writing career: climb outside the box! 


And there it was--the connection, the answer to: 

"What am I doing? I'm trying to be a good writer.

"Why?" I love to learn.

Since I started writing YA fiction I've learned so much, and I continue to learn every time I try to put a new story down. In the next few weeks, on my Thursday posts, I'm going to share what I've learned. I hope you'll join me and maybe share some of what you've learned as well. After all, I'm in that learning-how-to-write-stage-- will always be there, will always be open to hearing what you have to teach me.

Next week: Marking your characters' cultural and social backgrounds.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Miscellany and Goodbye Poetry for Novelists

Whew! I'm going to make Monday Miscellany on Monday this week and all thanks to a blue jay.  I was gone yesterday doing that Easter egg hunt thing.  When I got home, my front door was open. It's a little cranky these days and I guess I didn't pull it shut tight when I left. Very, very early this morning this loud, squawky bird swooped down from a beam in my bedroom to let me know he wanted out and right then. So I've been up since dawn, chasing a bird around the house until it found the open door again and flapped its way to freedom. Great start to the week: early rising, early exercise!

As to the poetry, I still think that poets have so much to show us writers of prose about putting words together, so they sound beautiful and create fresh and exciting images as well as convey meaning to the reader. 

Poetry and Prose/Apples and Apple Pie
Who wrote this--a poet, a novelist, someone who is both? Do you recognize these words? 

Where to start is the problem, because nothing begins when it begins and nothing's over when it's over, and everything needs a preface, a postscript, a chart of simultaneous events. History is a construct, she tells her students. Any point of entry is possible and all choices are arbitrary. Still, there are definite moments, moments we use as references, because they break our sense of continuity, they change the direction of time. We can look at these events and we can say that after them things were never the same again. They provide beginnings for us, and endings too. Births and deaths, for instance and marriages. And wars.

Let's see we should have a prize or something for the one who first identifies this writer. I've got an ARC of The Chaos that I can offer. It's a gritty futuristic novel by Rachel Ward.  

I'm working on reaching my ROW80 goal, so here's my poetry-prose connected piece that I promised myself I'd write. Draft #1


At dusk, lacy prints in the sand are all I see of the Iguanas who have fled before my footstep. But look up. There the clusters of bananas sway not from wind, but from a feast interrupted. 
At first light they skitter over slick tin roofs in pursuit of insects the heat has not yet driven into cool tile crevices. If an iguana becomes careless, it will most likely slide the length of the roof and land at your feet with the sound only a lizard can make.  
They regard people as dangerous and so I believe they're wise.  Inside those gilled heads, our scent triggers an ancient and healthy fear of humans and they flee, tails high, back to their tin sanctuary.  Perhaps they will survive.

Hope you'll share some poetry-prose here on my last Poetry for Novelists post for 2011. See you around the blogOsphere and be sure to visit some other ROW80 bloggers. Click on the ROW80 image at the top of this page to see if they're reaching their goals. Now I'm off to print out my WIP and get busy with that word count.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

That Goal Setting Thing OR How I'm Doing on ROW80

My goals for this week (my strategy is small steps until the end of this challenge round) is to put up one more poetry post to wind up my tribute to Poetry Month and how novelists can use poetry to create beautiful prose.

Then I will print out my WIP and edit it. I'm at 35,000 words and stuck, so I need to go back and unstick myself to finish. For me that means I have to find where I

a. took the story in the wrong direction
b. didn't let the character lead the way
c. forgot to carry a plot thread along

I'll add 2,000 more words by Friday. Whew! Guess I'd better get cracking because I've already scheduled three other things for the same week. My family will be eating pizza a lot. Good thing they love pizza.

Check back on Monday for goal 1--Poetry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vacation Poetry

My goal for this week was to post at least one more poem . . . Ahem, and back pat. I did. Then I said I had to write 3,000 more words on my WIP. Uh, Err, Well . . . I'm a bit behind there, but I have today and tomorrow. Be sure to check in with the other bloggers (to the right of this post) and see how they're meeting their goals.

Lazy mornings
Breakfast served 

Walks down, then up stone-faced canyons
   Water a trickle sound below the trail, unseen, 
   Promising a lake or bridge. 

Then Yoga
  Breathing that empties minds and fills lungs.
  Cunning in demands.
     Stretches, long held, reaching toward perfect.
          Beauty in flow
           for strength
             new perspectives 
         Breath at the center.
        That moment at the center. 
           Life at the center. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And the Poetry Continues

April poetry is a luxurious feast of perfectly ripened and juicy words.  I haven't taken the time to write or read poems for a long while, but after opening my dusty volumes and setting the poets' music free again, I can't imagine why I waited. 

Here's one that I read aloud and then memorized because it is exactly right for those nights when I'm fortunate enough to look up and find the moon shimmery in the night. It's the pacing of the piece-- punctuation's job, but also the colorful imagery and the tangible nature of that dot perfectly placed. That's what I want to capture in my prose--the pacing and the fresh imagery. 

There was, in the dusky night, 

On the yellowed steeple

The moon,

Like the dot of an i

      Alfred de Musset

This is one of my favorite  William Butler Yeats' poems, He and She. Just part of it, the part I like best.
I love to read this one, especially the second line. It has a special cadence that is perfect to my ear.

She sings as the moon sings:
         'I am I, am I;
The greater grows my light
        The further I fly.'
      All creation shivers
      With that sweet cry.

So after reading all of this masterful poetry, I had to read some of my compressed thoughts that I'd fitted into this demanding, tight form. I found this in one of my journals. Now how crazy is it for me to post my poems along with Yeats and Musset? A lot crazy, but it's my blog, so I guess I can do what I want. Is there a blog reviewer out there that will complain? Let's see.

I wrote this a few years ago when I was in England. You know you can't walk the countryside of England without coming to an ancient cemetery. So there I was with my pad and paper sitting by a gravestone something like this, marking the beginning and the end of someone's life. This is what I wrote. I was younger then, so cut me some slack when you critique this.

Ask the Stone 

Lichen pocked and cooled with the April air,
Lonely you are and lonelier with the blossom dust
Settling like impatient moths that fan you for the moment, then take leave
When the Wind calls in the siren's voice. 

Lichen pocked and warmed with the August sun,
Deep you are and deeper with each season’s leaves and grass
Mulching at your roots and like a thick sea secreting your inscribed face
When the Earth calls in the emperor's voice. 

Lichen pocked and brittled by December cold,
Old you are and top-heavy with your rakish tilt that pulls you south
And staggering, it might seem, in a drunkard’s dream
When Gravity calls in the winner's voice. 

Your name was long and full of sounds
Not easily said aloud, but calling to the mind like chimes in high branches,
It sang of journeys and spice and times now locked inside leather-bound books.

A blank face turned to the sky 
Its sculpted pate still proud with chiseled curls
Basking above the propertied one who sleeps below.

Who do you belong to? 

Ask the Stone.

         C. Lee McKenzie

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday Miscellany

Well, it's close to Monday. Seems like Monday came a little too soon for me to make my usual deadline, so I guess this is technically Tuesday Miscellany. 

The most important news is that I'll probably be doing more workshops in the near future. The people liked what happened in the last one and they are asking for more. I may even be doing one for foster care kids and that's one I'm really thrilled about. 

I visit Daisy Day Writer's blog SunnyRoomStudio a lot because it's so lovely and thought provoking. On one visit I posted about the synergy of art and the written word, and that made me remember E.E. Cummings who made some of his poetry into pictures. Here's one of my favorites where the childlike attitude toward spring is capture not only in the words, but also in the way he lets those words skip onto the page.

in Just-
spring               when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame baloonman

whistles          far                     and wee

and eddieanbill com
running from marbles and 
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old baloonman whistles
far      and         wee

and abettyandisbelcom dancing
from hop-scotch and jum-rope and
it's spring

Feel like playing a bit? Try creating some poetry-pictures. 

Here's an old one, more charm than poetry, but still with the rhythm of a poem and the written words in a magical form. 


The word gradually expands and becomes complete, the sound of the word unfolding like a bit of magic. 

Have fun and I hope you'll share something with me that you've painted in words. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poetry and Prose

 Georgia O'Keeffe New York with Moon

Since this is POETRY MONTH I thought I'd post something about how we novelists can benefit from the poet's labor of love. As I see it, POETRY is all about the pure pleasure of language, the way it can wash through you, bringing fresh images, giving sound and shape to thought. 

When I read a poem I let the language have its way with me, but I often return to those I'm particularly captivated by to understand why they reached more deeply inside me than others. Here are a few things that I admire in good poems and that I keep in mind while writing my prose.

Poets are an economical bunch. They use few, but powerful, multi-tasking words to create their stories. I think prose writers can learn so much about the fine art of word selection by reading poets, old and modern. 

Here's one of my favorite classics A Shady Friend for Torrid Days by Emily Dickinson.  In three stanzas she covers the ups and downs of human relationships and she does it with such tactile images.

A SHADY friend for torrid days   
Is easier to find   
Than one of higher temperature   
For frigid hour of mind.   
The vane a little to the east            5
Scares muslin souls away;   
If broadcloth breasts are firmer   
Than those of organdy,   
Who is to blame? The weaver?   
Ah! the bewildering thread!            10
The tapestries of paradise   
So notelessly are made!
Poets weave the sounds of their language in such a way that they create special rhythms and harmonies.

I can't read Vachel Lindsay without hearing the beat of the drums or feeling the heat of The Congo. It's not among my favorites, but it's one I hear long after reading

Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.

Sandberg brings the city of Chicago to life as no tourist guide book could ever do. Read these lines and you are there as the poet was those many years ago.

HOG Butcher for the World,
     Tool Maker, 
Stacker of Wheat,
     Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
     Stormy, husky, brawling,
     City of the Big Shoulders:

Poets create levels of meaning and establish tone through sound. Here prose writers can have one of those "field days" and harvest all kinds of ideas from poets to enhance their prose.

Alliteration: The repetition of the inital consonant sounds.

 Haunted with shadows of hunger hands, The Harbor, Sandberg

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds.

Silver bark of beech and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
                                      Twig of willow. Counting-Out Rhyme, Millay

Connance: The repetition of the final consonant sounds.

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

The possibilities of combining these poetic devices are limitless and so necessary for the novelist to be aware of. Nothing is more off putting than a super plot and plodding prose. I think I should do some editing about now, keeping all that I've said in mind.

Do you have a favorite poet or a piece of prose that thrills you when you read it? Want to share it and why it appeals to you so much? I'd love to read what you enjoy reading.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Miscellany

What a wonderful way to start a week and spring too. I finished my Library Loving Blog Challenge with new followers and with new friends here at the Write Game. Thanks to all of you who participated and helped me help one of my favorite places on planet earth, Los Gatos Public Library.  

Our Launch yesterday was a rousing success. Here are a few pictures of the people who are making it possible for our new library to have the state of art furniture, fixtures and equipment.

To add to the excitement of the Launch Dr. Edward Lu, Nasa Astronaut, talked to the crowd and answered questions from the young library supporters.

I haven't circled the earth hundreds of times like Dr. Lu, but I have had a full week. In addition to helping out at the Launch, I co-taught another Young Writers' Workshop. I was amazed at some of the excellent writing that these Tweens produced in the four hours we were together. Here are some young writers at work.

Outside of having the great good luck of participating in these library-related activities, I actually reached by 30K word count goal on my WIP, did three seriously wonderful Yoga sessions, and started reading Tinkers

Welcome SPRING. Welcome FIRST DANDELION as it puffs it's way toward the sun. Here's a little Whitman to celebrate this season of stirring--of new life.

Simple and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from it's sunny nook of shelter'd grass--innocent, golden, 
     calm as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.

What is it in this season that you celebrate most?