sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Author Archive

Chiaroscuro


chiaroscuro-wordle

Chiaroscuro: The contrast and balance between light and dark.

Within us resides a tapestry of darkness and light. It is woven into our hopes, fears, dreams, and secrets. To understand the tapestry leads to knowing ourselves. Follow these threads of dark and light. You may be surprised at what is hidden, lost, or wandering.

This is the introduction to my poetry book, Chiaroscuro. I’m working on finding it a publishing home. The image above is a Wordle based off the contents of the book.

The neat thing about Wordle is that the visual is a representation of the content. It’s compiled of the most frequent words used, and the size of the word is proportional to how many times it appears. I was pleasantly surprised to see that heart is bigger than dark. Really, that’s the message of the collection. Heart and light survive, no matter the depth of the darkness.

Here’s a poem that just missed making the collection:

Am I Truly Living ?

I wonder, am I truly living?
I have this awful misgiving
that I’m just a blunder.
Am I truly living? I wonder.

All around me others endeavor
to take charge of their dreams, however
I get worn out just to see
others endeavor all around me.

My thoughts wander like unfocused streams
when I should be chasing my dreams.
All the time I squander,
like unfocused streams; my thoughts wander.

To exist, I need to take control
of my actions, my role
in the world; my doubts dismissed,
I need to take control to exist.

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Muse Con Learning: Facebook Fan Page

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One of the things I took from Muse Con this year was how to make use of an Author Page on Facebook, presented by C.J. Ellisson. I had always thought it wasn’t worth having an author page until I had a book to promote. C.J. pointed out that she created her page 16 months before her book came out, and already had 1600 followers by the time her first book released. That is amazing. And it does make sense, to create a reader base before I have something to sell.

An Author Page isn’t all about selling a book, it’s about sharing an interest, growing a reader community. I can share not only about my book, but fun memes for the genre, questions for discussion. Currently I’m building up to Halloween by talking about different paranormal creatures. I’ve also started Fairy Fridays, something for my followers to expect on a weekly basis.

Another important thing I learned was that your friends list, your family and peers, is not your target audience. That’s another reason to have a separate author or fan page. Send out an initial invite or notice, and let them make that choice to follow or not. Don’t keep spamming them with invites or book news.

My goal for this next month is to find some fantasy groups to join, where I can interact as my Author persona. Start contributing, get people familiar with my name. I’m not ready to promote through Facebook ads, which would take money, so I get to take full advantage of other organic ways to connect with readers.

If you’d like to join me on my journey, you can follow me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MaryWJensenFanPage

 

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Sign up for the Muse Online Writers Conference Now!

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We are just over a week away from the 2013 Muse Online Writers Conference. For those unfamiliar with the conference, it’s a free week-long event with workshops and chats. The workshops are forum-based, so you can jump in and participate any time of day. The chats are scheduled throughout the week at various times (times listed are all Eastern US). Workshops can vary from daily exercises to Q&A to more of a casual chat about a topic.

There is something offered for nearly everyone. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, genre or otherwise. Sadly, there are no poetry workshops listed in the schedule at this time.

If you have a finished manuscript, there are pitch sessions with both agents and publishers. These are live chats. If you’re not already signed up, however, your pitch needs to be submitted by TOMORROW, September 30.  Check the website for more details.

Registration

For details on how to register, visit: http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/muse_front/index.php/2013-registration. You do not have to register for individual classes. Just check in to the forums for anything that interests you.

The site is a new build, so returnees will want to ensure they have the most recent link, and test their log-in. All accounts should have been migrated from the old site. If you have problems, refer to this HELP page.

One note: The site says registration will be open until Oct 1, but I have it on good authority that you will be able to register up until the start of the conference on Oct 7. But don’t waste time, as you don’t want to hit a problem with registration by waiting until the last moment.

My Experiences with Muse Con

If you’re interested, you can read up on my experience from last year’s conference. I think this will be my sixth(!) conference.

I love Muse Con. It’s a great way for a writer like me, with limited budget, to network with my fellow writers and members of the industry, and work on my skills. I’ve pitched books, started new novels, strengthened existing writing, and generally had a lot of fun.

Our group emerged from this conference, we learned the tools to create our poetry collection LIFELINES. We pitched our book to publishers at a later Muse Conference, and it was during Muse Con that we got our acceptance letter. We owe the success of this group and our book to Muse Conference.

Some of the Workshops

One of the classes I’m interested about this year is Plotting With Scrivener. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with Scrivener. And even if you don’t own a copy, you can download the trial version to play with during the conference.

A few of the other 30+ workshops:

  • Breaking into the Homeschool Market
  • Horror and Paranormal Trends
  • Housekeeping for Writers
  • Introduction to ePublishing
  • Creating a Character
  • Plotting a Series

Hope to see you there!

Muse Online Writers Conference
October 7-13, 2013

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This Writer’s Comfort Food

Red Vines

Red Vines (Photo credit: Incase.)

The right treat can be a perfect break from your creative session. While I write, I like things like Red Vines, nuts, chocolate, crackers. As a reward for a good session, it’s nice to have something richer to treat myself with. Here’s two of my favorite recipes. One on the healthier side, and one on the indulgent. Both tasty.

First off, my recipe for banana muffins. Don’t remember which online site I got the original recipe from. I like that this recipe only takes one banana. Perfect for using up an overripe banana. Bananas also freeze great for this purpose. Defrost in your fridge, cut off an end, and squeeze it out like toothpaste. No mushing necessary!

Banana Muffins

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 TB milk
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana (1 banana)
  1. In small bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. In separate bowl cream margarine and sugar; add eggs and mix until smooth. Stir in milk and banana. Mix well.
  3. Fold in flour mixture.
  4. Spray muffin tins with PAM. Fill tins 2/3 full.
  5. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Note: This makes about 16 muffins, so I do have to do two batches. The big batch is great for pot lucks too.

The other recipe I’m sharing is more recently discovered. I’ve only made them twice, but they are by far the best cookies I’ve made. Discovered through Pinterest, the original recipe can be found here.

White Chocolate Snickerdoodles

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • white chocolate chips
  1. Mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  2. Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs and blend well.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well. Add chips (use as many as you think are good, but I do about half a bag.)
  4. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  5. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. (Makes about 4 dozen cookies)

Note: If dough is too sticky, or cookies are too flat, add more flour.

 

What do you like to snack on to give you a needed boost during your creative sessions?

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Get the Lead Out

When I was in eighth grade, the school held a writing contest for students to go to a local Young Writer’s Conference. The topic we had to write a story on was Get the Lead Out. I didn’t have any preconceptions of the phrase, so interpreted it how I wanted. Since writing my story, I’ve used the phrase to remind myself to just write. Here’s my story:

Get the Lead Out

My favorite teacher in Jr. High must have been Mr. Horace D. Wallington, my English teacher.  His favorite—and most often used—expression was “get the lead out”.  At first it was only another way to say get out your pencil and start writing.  At least that’s what it meant to me.  Now I can see that it means more than that.  Much, much, more . . .

“Mr. Wallington . . . Mr. Wallington!”

“Huh?” Mr. Wallington glanced up from the papers he was correcting and noticed Sarah standing beside his desk. “Is there anything I can help you with Sarah?”

“I’m having some trouble with that essay you asked us to write this morning.”

“You mean the one you’re supposed to write about your feelings on World War II.”

“Yea. That’s the one.”

“I’m surprised you even asked me about it. You’re usually so quiet in class that I never know whether you have any questions that need answering.”

“Well . . .”

“Why don’t you come in after school tomorrow and I’ll try to help you with it then.”

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Wallington.”

Sarah turned and headed towards the door.  As she was about to leave, Mr. Wallington called out “Write down everything you know about World War II and bring the paper in with you tomorrow.”

“Okay . . . Anything else?”

“No. That’s all.”

The next day Sarah was right on time.  As she went in, she saw that Mr. Wallington was alone in the classroom.  When he noticed that she had come in, he pulled one of the desks closer to his own.

He asked her to sit down and then sat down himself, perching on the edge of his desk. “Did you write the paper like I asked you to?”

“Yes, I have it right here.” Sarah handed him a small pile of papers.  He flipped through the papers then handed them back to her.

“I see that you have been listening in class.  What I don’t understand is if you know so much about World War II, then why are you having so much trouble writing your paper?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure how to write it all out.”

“But you wrote it all down right here.”

“I know. It’s just that . . .”

“I think what you’re trying to say is that you’re not quite sure what your feelings are on the subject.”

“I guess you could put it that way.”

“Well, in this situation, my main advice is to just ‘get the lead out,’ as I would always say.”

“But what exactly do you mean when you say that?” Sarah asked earnestly.  “I always thought that it was a figure of speech to say get out your pencil and start working.”

“I suppose in a way it does mean that.  Yet it means more.  You know that lead compound could kill you. Don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And if you get some in your system, then it’s best to get it out right away, correct?”

“Of course.  That’s the sensible thing to do.”

“Well, the lead is all that information stored up in you. It’s in there, somewhere, and you know you have to get it out.”

“So how am I to go about doing that?”

“ ‘Get the lead out.’ Get that pencil in your hands and just start writing. Let it go. Let it flow out of your system. Don’t force it; just let your hand do the talking. It will all come out, I promise.”

“It’s that easy?” the need for reassurance in her eyes.

Mr. Wallington smiled. “Why don’t you go home and find out for yourself.” He escorted her to the door and held it open for her. She started to walk down the hall, hesitated, and looked back.

“Thank you, Mr. Wallington. I’ll try my best to do as you said.”

“I expect to see that essay on my desk first thing in the morning.”

And it was. He was right. Once I just got down to it and let it all out, it was easy. Not only did I get an “A” on that paper, but my teacher entered it into a national contest, and it won. Here I am now, getting credit for it, but the award should go to him.

Thank you, Mr. Wallington, for the wonderful advice. And for explaining to me that simple phrase: “Get the Lead Out.”

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Witness to the Art and Dedication

"Writing", 22 November 2008

I have a nine-year-old son and a husband who both love my attention. I know they both have Quality Time as one of their top love languages (and mine!), so it is important. However, this has made it even harder for me to write when others are around. My son wants to share, or do something with me. My husband comments “but you had all day to write”. So I tend not to write on weekends or breaks from school. Or if I do, I get cranky from all the interruptions. Then an event like NaNoWriMo comes around, or National Poetry Month. I think: this is important! I will make an exception. But the boys don’t see it that way. To them, it’s the same as every other day. So as the month goes by, I would do less challenges in evenings and weekends. Until I eventually stalled out altogether, feeling I wasn’t getting the support I needed.

I have since realized my mistake. It’s impossible to prove to someone that my writing is important if I don’t act like it is. I haven’t made it a priority. I can’t expect them to respect my writing time when I don’t respect it myself. When they don’t *see* me write. I put that to the test last April. Both husband and son were made aware that I was going to write a poem each day, and be spending time on the poetry forum, even on weekends and spring break. In return, my husband helped remind my son when I was working, and I got the space and support I needed. And it ended up being my most successful poetry month.

Now that it’s summer, I’ve put into the schedule for one hour of writing every week day. It’s not a perfect system yet. My kid is good with schedules, and has been giving me the hour when I ask for it. I need to be more consistent in doing so, and not wasting that hour when I do.

How do carve writing time for yourself? How do you convince those in your life that writing/creativity is important?

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Mary’s Poetry Month Success

I was very pleased with my poetic productivity in April. Here’s the breakdown.

I competed in daily challenges on the Sims 3 forums. These consisted of weekly themes, and daily styles/forms. Not all poems had to be newly written for the contest.

  • Wrote 19 new poems, and entered all but one day.
  • Won twelve days (half of those were ties).
  • Earned 2600 points ($26 of Simpoints which I got in stuff for my game).
  • 1332 words of poetry written.
  • Compliments on my poems, as well as small gifts from other contestants.
  • Four new Sims friends (fellow poets).
  • Overall winner (most wins and points).
  • Eight poems packed with potential that need polishing.

I’m so glad I participated in the Sims 3 Forums rather than the Poetic Asides blog this year. It was much more intimate, and I think that helped to inspire me as the month went along.

I also composed two Book Spine poems, one which I shared in my last post. The other is one I did for the library contest. Below is my poem showing what the library means to me. It was a finalist (top ten of over 100 entries).

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Brink of Chaos
The Great Escape
Gateways
Haven

Doing the book spine poem at the library also had another benefit. See that bottom book? I grabbed it solely for the title. I glanced at the front cover blurb due to the butterfly. Went on instinct, and checked out the book. Read it in two days. LOVE. The book is HAVEN by Kristi Cook. It’s a YA about a girl with precognition, who transfers to a school where everyone has some sort of psychic ability. In the author’s own words: Think X-Men meets Twilight.  Loved the characters, the fresh spin on the plot. Could not put the book down. Immediately checked out book two, MIRAGE. Now eagerly waiting for book three to come out (this fall!).

To end the post, I will share with you one of the poems I wrote last month. A Villanelle.

The Author

A goddess, many worlds do I create
to fill with danger, passion, magic, flight,
with words alone manipulating fate.

A lonely princess on a grand estate,
a dragon in his lair just out of sight,
a goddess, many worlds do I create.

Each character is given a strong trait
then thrown into some unforgiving plight;
with words alone manipulating fate.

When countless suitors seek to procreate,
the dragon takes them out with just a bite.
A goddess, many worlds do I create.

A hero uses wit to then debate
and keeps the dragon occupied all night,
with words alone manipulating fate.

The dragon tricked to eat some poisoned bait,
the princess freed to her own tale rewrite.
A goddess, many worlds do I create,
with words alone manipulating fate.

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Poetry Month: Book Spine Poetry

If you’re not aware, April is National Poetry Month. Next week is also National Library Week. AtYourLibrary.org is celebrating both with a contest. Use the books from your library to compose a Book Spine Poem telling why the library matters to you (deadline April 20). I haven’t made it out to my library yet, but wanted to make my own book spine poem. This isn’t themed about the library, and was made using my personal library.

A book spine poem is made by stacking book spines so the titles make a free verse poem.

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Mary’s Book Spine Poem

In case that’s hard to read, or the image doesn’t load, it reads:

The Shadow Warrior
Exile

Out of Avalon
Through Stone and Sea
Too Stubborn to Die

It was a fun challenge going through all my books, pulling and mixing and shifting trying to find something I liked and that told a story. I’d lvoe to see what you come up with from your own libraries.

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The Evolution of a Story pt 1

I have multiple novels in various stages. Sometimes I have a basic idea, but not enough for characters or plot. I always write these down anyways. If I’m bored, I’ll pull up my idea file and see if any of the bits and pieces will work together.

I want to share with you the notes and evolution of how my current project came together. All these notes came at completely different times and from unrelated places.

ideas

ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Idea 1

Someone who lives to their beliefs. Mental expectation defines our reality. Refusing to belief that flight is impossible. A person lives by their own set of rules. What others see as tricks and magic is reality for this person. Anything is possible if you believe.

Idea 2

two best friends from childhood, begin to grow apart. the guy stops writing. she continues, unaware that he is throwing her letters away without reading them. The guys roommate gets curious and opens them. he falls for her through the letters. when she writes about interest in a guy, he gets jealous, has to meet her.

Idea 3

Story about the Crazy Lady:

They call me crazy. I’m not crazy. Just different. I’m happy. I can’t help expressing it. They don’t understand me, because they have not experienced my happiness.

Story

It wasn’t until later that I came back to this notes and realized they could all be combined into one story. Each alone is only a concept, a character, a setting. But combined together we can begin to see a STORY. Suddenly I had three characters: a “crazy” woman who believes in magic and writes letters to her old friend, and the roommate who intercepts these letters.

I still wasn’t ready to write the story. It needed rules, conflict. But the combined ideas gave it a shape, popped it out of 2D and into 3D. So that’s my advice for today. Always write down your ideas, no matter how small. And if you cut a character from a story, or a line from a poem, save that as well. You never know where it might find a fit later.

If you don’t have anything in your idea file, or can’t find a way to make any of your ideas fit for a story, don’t be afraid to use prompts. There are plenty of prompt generators online. Feel free to use different ones, mix and match. Get a character here, a setting there. The more ideas you can combine, the more depth your story will have.

Resources

Here are a few places for free writing prompts

Seventh Sanctum: A personal favorite. In addition to story prompts, has a lot of other random generators.

Writers Digest Boot Camp has a download for two full weeks of prompts.

Hundreds of little prompts at Creative Writing Prompts

And if you’re more visual, try out Writing Picture Prompts

Next time on Mary’s Expression (March 19): Evolution of a Story continues

 

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Saleema and Persona poems

On February 5, I introduced Saleema, one of our workshop winners. I noted that Saleema was a winner in our Persona category. Today I’d like to share that winning poem with you, as well as a follow up poem she has since shared with us. In a Persona, the poet writes in the voice of another person or thing. As you’ll see below, Saleema really immersed herself in this challenge.

I choose Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet, as the voice for the assignment.

Following is a short clip about Rumi and his teacher Shams Tabrizi:

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“Shams-i-Tabrīzī… is credited as the spiritual instructor of Mewlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhi, also known as Rumi. Shams is referenced with great reverence in Rumi’s poetic collection, Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrīzī (The Works of Shams of Tabriz).

According to contemporary Sufi tradition, Shams Tabrizi mysteriously disappeared. Some say he was killed by close disciples of Mewlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi, who were jealous of the close relationship between Rumi and Shams. It is also said that Shams Tabrizi left Konya and died in Khoy, where he was buried. Sultan Walad, Rumi’s son, in his Walad-Nama mathnawi, just mentions that Shams mysteriously disappeared from Konya with no more specific details.

As the years passed, Rumi attributed more and more of his own poetry to Shams as a sign of love for his departed friend and master. In Rumi’s poetry Shams becomes a symbol of God’s love for mankind; Shams was a sun (“Shams” means “Sun” in Persian) shining the Light of God on Rumi.”

[Above Information is from Wikipedia]

Note: I used the speakers name (Jalāl ad-Dīn) at the end of the poem, because Sufi poets often mention their own names in their poetry.

My Sun

The night we met the full moon winked
You etched your heart onto my soul
We whirled like the planets in the sky
Your wine washed my stumbling feet
Each spin swept a part of me away

The day you left my heart’s sun set
Heaviness haunted every breath
Your prayer carpet felt forlorn
Bereft I twirled, alone, undone
Your guidance quit
without a glance, a hint, a word

Yet, while I longed for your return
Piece by piece
my heart began to burn
Whispered words thundered
through my throbbing core
Would you raise me above the sky,
then hide a Sun that lights the way?

No! Shams would not abandon
what he loves
A mother caringly shares her breast
when she hears her hungry child cry
Neglect is not my Shams’ way
So, I will surrender to your whim
Let all think Jalāl ad-Dīn’s alone again

Like a possum I’ll play dead
while your songs ring louder than before
with words so clear they’ll shutter nights
in notes that tell of all you taught
The Divan-i Shams-i Tabrizi
Takes me to untraveled heights
Where in the One, all reunite

Shams’ earthen form
Our Beloved’s ruse
Led Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi to Eternal Truth

By Saleema E. Giltinan 10-12-2012

The following poem was written as Sham’s answer to the poem written in Rumi’s voice (about Shams’ leaving).

NOTE: The dervish Shams-e Tabrizi had traveled throughout the Middle East searching and praying for someone who could “endure my company”.shams-tabrizi

A voice said to him, “What will you give in return?”
Shams replied, “My head!” The voice then said,
“The one you seek is Jalal ud-Din Rumi, of Konya.”

(Wikipedia/Mawlana and Shams by Sefik Can)

Al Noor: One of the 99 Name of Allah meaning Light, Enlightment
Al Mumeet: One of the 99 Names of Allah meaning “the bringer of death”.
The esoteric meaning of this Name is: The bringer of the first death,
the death to the world of illusion,
the death of the idea of separation and duality. Also known as “die before you die”.
Al Haqq: One of the 99 Names of Allah meaning “Truth, Reality”.

The Leaving  (In Sham’s Voice)
by Saleema E. Giltinan  (Copyright @ 12-12-2012)

Our yearning drew me back again
Al Noor revealed
Clandestine sight
We twirled, then rested
in Its sparks

Only you endured
my company
Reveled in my
sacred subtleties

Mumit’s roasting pot…
too bright for foes
One birth, one death,
that’s all they know

Our friendship fueled
Konya’s ire
Only holy hands
caress Love’s fire

My ways softened
as they stung
you alone coddled
my striking tongue

Affinity plants fondness
in earthy ground
I watched the leaving
lurk around

Quickening happened
You began to soar
Our destiny
at last fulfilled

Then time asked me
to pay the price
My head
a tumbled garnet gneiss

I turned to powder
in His hands
His breath sent me
where He willed

Separation plays
an ugly game
Al Haqq destroys
disquieting claims

My absence lit
your cooking pot
You died before death
tied its knot

Now whirl my son
His Light is Mine
Our steps are One
Our paths entwined

Spin until we are no more!

Thank you again, Saleema, for really embracing this form, and for allowing us to share your work here.

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