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Archive for the ‘Michele’ Category

Devon Ellington and the Muse Online Writers Conference

assumption-of-right-coverI first met Devon during one of the early Muse Online Writers Conferences. Her workshop was thought-provoking, hard work, and immensely satisfying to get through. Since then, I’ve taken several more from her at Savvy Authors (another terrific site), as well as the Muse Conference.

Her depth of knowledge, focus, humor, and structure, all forced me to stretch and go further than I expected I could. I’m so delighted that Devon is back at the Muse Conference this year. Below is a post she wrote, and is included here with her permission.

The Poetic Muselings are presenting a workshop at the Muse Conference, too, “Poetry — Not Just for Writing Verse”. What I learned with Devon over the years influenced the way I look at writing in all genres. I’ve merged the poetic approach in novels, non-fiction, script writing, and even blog posts.

Join us at the Muse Online Writers Conference — but hurry — registation ends on Sept 30!

Later this week, we’ll tell you about our Poetic Museling workshop. But now, here’s Devon.

 

The Muse and I

by Devon Ellington

The actual Muse and I have an on-again/off-again relationship that doesn’t change the fact that I need to get my butt into the chair every damn day and work, whether I  feel like it or not.  In fact, it’s MORE imperative to get butt in chair on the days you don’t feel like it, and often, your best work comes out of the toughest days.

You only want to write when you feel like it?  Nice to have that luxury.  Some of us have to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.  With our pens and our keyboards.  If you only want to write “when the Muse strikes” (and sometimes she uses a frying pan or a brick), good for you.  Skip my classes, though, because I’m not the right teacher for you.

hexbreakeralt1Sometimes my Muse is male, and sometimes female.  The energy takes on whatever attributes necessary to get the job done.  Sometimes I have the Nick and Nora Charles pair of Muses lounging behind my chair, swilling martinis and making sarcastic comments as I slave away over my words.

That’s okay, as long as it gets done.

As far as the Muse Online Conference, let’s see, how many years have I been here?  I know I did six consecutive years, and then I had to skip one — I think it was last year.  I may have had to skip another one at some point because of chaos going on in life, and when chaos happens, it’s not the writing that gets put aside, but everything else.

There are many great things about the Muse Online Writers Conference.  The sheer volume of participants and the joy they bring to the process is wonderful. It’s a great way to dip one’s toe into a lot of different ways to work, and find techniques to add to your toolbox.  It’s a great place to develop new ideas — I’ve developed several novels during the Muse Conference.  If you do Nano, it’s a great place to prep for Nano. As a teacher, it’s a great place to try out new class ideas.  A lot of places want the same kind of classes — at Muse, teachers can stretch and try new ideas.  And those unique-type classes are often the ones that are the most needed by the writers.  It’s a place to find your peers.  The group of people you start with will be the group you rise with as you progress in your writing life — your support system, your Trusted Readers, the shoulders to cry on after a tough day or a disappointment.  What better place to find them than in an intoxicating environment of writing pleasure?

But you can’t find that if you don’t attend.  I hope to see you there, whether you choose to spend time in my three day Supporting Characters Workshop, where you learn how to create a good ensemble around your protagonist and antagonist without letting them run away with the book — or if we’re both students together in one of the other workshops.  A huge part of good writing is good listening — and some of the best listening opportunities happen at conferences!

–Devon Ellington is a full-time writer, publishing under half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction.  Her paranormal romantic suspense novel, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (as Annabel Aidan) is available in print and online from Champagne Books.  Solstice Publishing has the Jain Lazarus Adventures, with HEX BREAKER out now, OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK coming out later this week, and CRAVE THE HUNT sent to the publisher just before this conference.  Her story “Sea Diamond” featuring the take-no-prisoners Fiona Steele appears in the upcoming DEATH SPARKLES anthology, and her plays are produced in New York, Cape Cod, London, Edinburgh, and Australia.

http://devonellington.wordpress.com and www.devonellingtonwork.com.

 

 

 

Douglas Adams Was Right

dscn2333-copy-e1346813656376For the past several weeks, I’ve suffered computer meltdown — and I do mean I, personally, suffered from it. Seemed to do everything I could to not go with the flow (except bile, which ran freely through my system). Even my incredible Standard Poodle, Harlee, tuned in to my angst with a vengeance. By Saturday night, we were both howling at the moon most of the night.

What started as a bit of quirkiness grew into anarchy by my home devices. The iMac, recently upgraded to Mountain Lion, apparently decided it didn’t “do” wifi anymore, certainly not with the old D-Link router. If it stood its ground and absolutely refused to allow me internet access, or to network with the other computers in the house, I would have wrapped it up and taken it directly to the Computer Hospital.

It preferred to toy with me, like the cat it is. It would work “sometimes” for a few minutes; occasionally it did this when I first turned it on during the day. Then, obviously it was bored and checked out. The intermittent aspect drove me nuts. It loved to pretend we were buddies again, let me get into something important, and then — nothing. Pleading and threats were about as effective as you might expect.

The iMac also figured it had nothing in common with our five-year-old HP printer, either. Refused to acknowledge that a driver even existed that would allow them to work together. Nope. No way. I couldn’t check for updates, because — wait for it — guess who was not able to get online . . . ?

The Windows 7 laptop got in on the act. It, too, refused to communicate with the Mac. It did pretend it liked the printer, and spit out test page after test page when asked, but nothing else. So, if I needed eighteen original test pages, it would be happy to accommodate me.

As someone who straddles two worlds, Apple and Microsoft, I’m continuously pulled off balance. Documents created or updated on the Mac refuse to hold formatting when exported to Word. Spreadsheets designed for XLS will not open properly on the Mac unless uploaded or created on the laptop first, saved in DropBox, or (when it works) pulled from one to the other via the in-house network/wifi.

My husband’s old XP desktop was still functioning, probably best of anything, until we got our tech-person out; he fixed a lot, but put a password onto Len’s computer, which threw him out of whack.

It seems that my iMac has a faulty wifi card, which needs to be replaced — when I’ll have the “right time” to do it is a mystery. The D-Link fought a good fight, but had to be retired; failing eye-wire-circuit coordination gets to the best of them. The new router, a spiffy Air Express (I think) is sleek, and capable — but, in exquisite irony — can only function well right now to deal with wifi when it’s actually plugged in to the Mac. Um, a hard-wired wifi; I’m sure someone’s made a fortune on a joke about this already.

The laptop also seems to be answering to a higher authority than me — or Mr. Tech Man. He finally took it away with him to find out who’s the boss, telling it to ignore what it needs to do, and stop doing what it shouldn’t — like spitting out test pages.

Only the iPad behaved itself, relatively speaking, during this time. It opened most of the email (but not all of it); let me get into the internet much of the time, as the only sane device around here that at least thought it was supposed to be able to use the wifi system to do it. If only it could have accessed some of the material I desperately needed from the Mac. If it knew how to do that, it decided not to upset the Big Mac, so played dumb.

For the better part of these three weeks or so, I’ve tried all kinds of tricks to get into my documents to deal with crazy deadlines for the Muse Online Writers Conference next month, the next issue of Apollo’s Lyre, posts for this blog, and material pertaining to my car accident from almost two years ago. Time is running out on all of them. In order to use them, they have to be converted to Word or XLS, pulled into the laptop, and handled from there.

I’ve tried to see the humor in all of this, at least today, now that I’ve been able to get most of what I needed for the car accident paperwork at least. I can see a good country music song tangled in the lyrics, or the sixth volume in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy — imagine Arthur Dent, waking up one Thursday morning, knowing he hates Thursdays because everything goes wonky those days. Imagine he opens his front door and Deep Thought, the infamous computer, burps at him. Take it from there into absurdity.

avalanche-64-copy

So, Douglas Adams was right when he said, back around 1978, that the Earth is a giant computer, and white mice run experiments on humans all the time. If you don’t believe this, then give me a better explanation of the behavior exhibited around my house lately.  No prissy ideas about hardware and software. No, I want you to get to the heart of this thing.

And write about it in verse, any form you choose. (Hey, gang, what’s crazier than Limericks to deal with the absurd?)

 

 

Limericks — How It All Started For Me

Power of the Pen – Limericks

St. Paddy’s Day weekend 2009, I read my poems publicly for the first time at an open mic event. Terrified at exposing my babies to the harsh elements of public view. Even more terrified at the form I chose — limericks.

The Poetic Muselings were experimenting with different forms, and this was a huge stretch, but what better way to go all the way out on the limb?  Here’s what gave me strength to lead us on our journey. If political satire (especially in an election year) upset you, perhaps you want to skip this musing.

Power of the Pen

We need a new four-letter word
To deny this is simply absurd.
To say what we mean
and not be obscene —

The best way for the herds to be heard

****************

Hooray for good old “uck”
One letter changes a duck
into something we find —
outrageous? sublime?

the epitome of our yucked-up old luck?

****************

Politicians are so damn perverse
Campaigning should all be in verse
let rapier wits
expose all the twits

Then watch them go lurch in reverse

***************

The elected have grandiose schemes
to fix economic machines
Trust us, they say
we work magic today

Naked Emperors with unraveled seams

***********

Don’t worry, my darling, my honey
They’re only just stealing our money
They really don’t care
that they trade in despair —

Now tell me how that can’t be funny.

*****

 

 

Lisa Gentile, Mentor and Moxie Maverick

We’re delighted to spend some time today with
Lisa Gentile,
the “Moxie Maverick”,
career coach, writer, poet, creative artist,
and mentor to
the Poetic Muselings.

 Michele: Well, Lisa, we’ve had a bit of history since meeting in cyberspace at the October 2007 Muse Online Writers Conference. So much has changed for all of us! Your poetry workshop in 2008 was so powerful, it literally burned out your internet connection on that last day of chats. As I tap-danced my way through a room full of writers from all over the world, we decided to let you know what we were taking back with us from the intense week. Last November, Lifelines was published, the culmination of our efforts following the workshop.

 Did you ever think we’d be having this conversation, in this way, and this time?

Lisa: I had no idea what I was starting when I signed into that first workshop. I never expected that we would later meet up in various states. Now it makes perfect sense that  we are writing to each other, with each other, and in one another’s spaces.

 What do you think helped us succeed when so many drop by the wayside?

It seemed to me that you all immediately appreciated the potential of your sharing. Our workshop exercises asked you to step back and really listen to your work, yourselves, and each other. But you trusted each other, or at least wanted the possible outcomes enough to take risks together.

 We learned so much from you — what might we have taught you in return?

I was humbled to hold an early version of your manuscript, which would eventually become Lifelines, in my hands. It was the culmination of your shared perseverance and vulnerability. I was grateful to have witnessed its creation, even from afar. You taught me to remain open-minded with respect to what others may achieve.

As you know, I see connections in even the not-so-obvious places. When people “take root” in each others’ lives, all kinds of things are possible.

For me, connection has always meant to witness another person, to see, acknowledge and respect what’s important to them. I like how Dr. Brené Brown defines connection as ‘the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when  they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.’ I find her use of the word ‘sustenance’ compelling. It seems like an important part of the connection between the Poetic Muselings that became Lifelines.

Tell us about Moxie Mavericks — how does one “become” one? And why should one?

Moxie Mavericks is the name of my company, my professional life coaching practice. Moxie means gumption, derring-do, etc. But for me it’s a family value with which I was raised. I come from several generations of people who stand by their principles, whether they make us heroes, antiheroes, or observers. We enjoy each other’s stories. And those stories don’t even have to be spectacular, as long as they are real. We simply witness each other’s moxie when we see it. So people with similar values tend to feel at home here.

Mavericks are the sorts who get very serious about creating personal meaning in their lives. They are, by definition, out on the very edge of the frontier. It’s important to note that the landscape might be internal. People have special needs when they shift to maverick mode. It gets lonely out/in there. Very often others in their lives don’t see the singular vision that a maverick might have or initially understand the actions he or she chooses. So in coaching we build a space where mavericks can get customized support and feel safe to experiment with ideas.

We all have access to moxie and can be a maverick. It’s in there.

I know you are passionate about the concept of transition in an individual’s life. What does this mean to you? What are you seeing that’s so exciting?

People usually expect life coaching to be about defining their dreams, about setting and reaching goals, and about overcoming challenges like procrastination. Indeed, these are some of the tactical aspects of the work we do in coaching. But what I see over and over in my clients is a desire to make meaning out of a transition, to understand what’s being lost and gained by moving. In some cases, if we rush into goal setting we miss the opportunity to slow down and reflect. Forced goals lack authenticity. They are burdensome rather than enriching. Giving clients space and time for this reflection has deepened and enlivened the experiences my clients and I share.

As we talked recently, I envisioned transition as trying to figure out what you need to put in your backpack for a journey — and more importantly, what you must take out and leave out in order to make a transition. That’s the hard part — letting go of what only weighs you down. Any guidance on this? 

We often don’t know that we are entering the journey of a transition when it begins. Sometimes we realize we are far from “home” only when we feel lost. Something has changed but we don’t know what. We also might not know where we are going next. So it can be tricky to pack in advance. Either way, it helps to have a stash of compassion, for oneself and for others. We are all doing the best we can. We need to be patient with ourselves. This is how we can safely look at what’s holding us down. I won’t pretend that it’s easy work. The second handy item is appreciation for ourselves and others. I work with clients on spotting signature strengths–the ones that offer us the most pleasure and personal meaning when expressed. They make for an internal compass of sorts, one that can be recalibrated as interests change.

Where are you going with projects and other aspects of your life these days? 

People have been asking for retreats so I’m working that out. I understand more fully now how they might be of service. This fall two plays that my husband, Nick, and I wrote will be performed at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. Our program is called “Weird Romance”. We have a wonderful director, cast, and crew bringing our characters to life. It’s quite a treat to have others see your imagination walking and talking under the lights. We love hearing the audience laugh.

And what about your future? What’s coming up? 

I am exploring the vulnerability of stillness. It’s a wild ride.

You can’t get away from here without a few words about one of the strangest boat stories I’ve heard in years — and I’m a (somewhat) experienced sailor!

What is the project that made you take to the seas, what’s happening with it now, and where do you see it going?

You are talking about Spirit of the Sea, a new youth sailing program for which I volunteer. This year we acquired a very special boat as our flagship, S/V Ocean Watch. In February we splashed her, cleaned her up, and sailed her from Anacortes, WA, to San Francisco, CA.

We take youth sailing on the San Francisco Bay at not cost to them. Just participating in the sailing of a boat and experiencing the marine environment can be powerful to our youth. But we’re taking it a step further by offering activities that incorporate experiential education, citizen science, and service learning to connect these kids with critical thinking, mentors, and possible career paths. We hope to instill these young sailors with a sense of agency that will transfer to other domains.

“No one makes that trip at that time by choice.” 

That’s exactly what half a dozen insurance agents said.

Why did you do it?

I no longer know why we delivered the boat at that time. To get it done, I suppose. I did it because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail with an incredible group of experienced and moxie-rich sailors, some of whom had become my dear friends. I did it because I had earned it. We had worked hard to get the program to that point and sharing this adventure was a celebration. Also, I was ready for a new way to access information about myself in the world. This is the point of the adventure coaching that I do with some of my clients. This adventure was an opportunity for me to exercise different strengths outside of my daily routine.

Any highlights?

I witnessed first-hand the value of a “game-face” in sailing leadership. It keeps everyone calm and focused. There were many perfect moments. There was a perfect hour of a perfect afternoon. I felt secure with my fellow crew so I was free to marvel at the ever-changing shapes of the waves, patterns of the bubbles, and colors of the waters. And I had some chocolate. I think I felt deeply myself and connected at the same time. But I find that the more I try to look back at these moments squarely, the more they seem to shimmer and dissolve. They are prismatic.

So my work now is to remember how these moments felt and stay open to those sensations in the future.

Was this a transitional journey for you?

It offered key moments in a larger transition. The engine died one morning at dawn, just before a shift change. So everyone was up, exhausted, and busy. While others tracked the problem and rebuilt parts I stayed on watch alone at the helm. We had no wind so we were especially vulnerable. Even once we started moving again, my job was relatively simple: monitor the radar, watch for hazards, make course adjustments, and scan the horizon through the binoculars. But I was absolutely satisfied. I loved that no one checked on me. As the sun came up I studied the beautiful sky and coastline and faced the notion that I had fulfilled, in one way or another, just about every promise that I had made to myself as a kid. I decided to not even review the list, to just let it all be. Now I’m shifting my focus from doing to being.

They say you never return from a journey to the same place. 

When I left I was thrilled that I didn’t know when I would return. I don’t think I’ve quite yet returned. I am practicing patience and expressing my curiosity.

Your websites are as eclectic as you are, Lisa — so much more to talk about at a later date! 

Glad to see that Spirit of the Sea is a recognized 501 tax-exempt Public Charity  — which means that donations not only go to a very good cause, but are tax deductible. I encourage our readers to look at this site and consider a donation to the worthy cause. (Hint: the price of a couple of lattes could help float the boat.):    www.spiritofthesea.org

Your theater production is a hoot! How I’d love to be in San Francisco on Sept. 8, 9, 11 or 14 to see “Weird Romance”:   http://www.sffringe.org

Thank you so much for joining us today! As always, we appreciate your generosity of spirit, wisdom, humor, and that sense of connection we cherish. Good luck with all your adventures.

Thanks, Michele. My pleasure, and I look forward to sharing more soon.

To learn more about what Lisa does, check out:  www.moxiemavericks.com

 

 

Editor’s POV: How to Submit your Work

Lin Neiswender’s Post about Publication Leads was great. She reiterated that there ARE places to send our work, and that we writers and poets are a community; when we share resources, advice, ideas, and our hearts, we all benefit. We are the Poetic Muselings, with a published book of poetry, because others before us opened the doors, reached out to help us, and now we are continuing the process.

I’ve been Poetry Editor for Apollo’s Lyre e-zine for almost two years, having inherited a marvelous forum that I’ve made my own. We publish poets and poems from all over the world, from highly credentialed folks, and those who are courageously sending their work out for the first time — some of it decades old, but unseen by other eyes. I love this unpaid job, the discovery of a fresh voice, vivid imagery, the teasing of form. Our readers must love the publication, too, because they’ve commented about how particular poems inspired them to send their work for consideration.

We get LOTS of poems, and often the decision of what to publish is very difficult. When I first read the incoming items, I do a quick scan of the poem. Some grab me immediately, a huge “YES!!!” bounces in my head. I tag these stars, so they stand out. I don’t pay attention to the bio info yet — I just know I want to find a spot for these words in a future issue.

The next category are those where the poet didn’t follow any of the guidelines:

Soldiers at Yorktown

Soldiers at Yorktown (Graf, 2005)

— a maximum of FORTY (40) lines of poetry, excluding stanza breaks

— spread out in up to FOUR poems

— subject line: Poetry, YOUR NAME, # of poems, # of lines total

—  poem and bio  in the body of the email. No attachments

— at a minimum, the use of “//” to designate stanza breaks.

(I also ask for “/” at the end of each line of poetry, but that seems to confuse people.)

— People may send in their work whenever, so long as it doesn’t exceed 40 lines and four poems in any three month period. In the guidelines page of Apollo’s Lyre, I lay out this information, with examples.

Ignore these and your poems are likely to be returned or ignored, depending on the circumstances. Send something with a blank subject line, or an attachment (unless I’ve specifically requested it), and it will travel directly to “Trash”. Do yourself a favor and make it easier for the editor or publisher not to say “NO”.

I’ve received emails from some folks who send (I kid you not!):

— one long email, with over 250 lines of poetry, in multiple poems

— one long email with ONE poem of over 200 lines

— one poem per email, with over a dozen emails received in a short period of time.

— collections of poems (often a dozen or more, with around 100 lines or so)

These leave me with the feeling that I’m looking in someone’s closet, and it’s my job to decide what they should wear. Don’t send me “everything” — send me your very best poem(s).

The next part is trickier, and always amazes me, since it gives the impression that the person submitting didn’t care where or to whom, and assumed we’d figure it out:

— maybe because my name is so often misspelled, I triple-check the editor’s name, spelling, title, etc., before sending anything out. So, when I see my name spelled in any of a multitude of variations, it says someone didn’t proofread before mailing, or didn’t pay attention.

— recently, I got a spate of poems addressed to me as well as about a hundred of the poet’s nearest and dearest editors — with all of our names listed in the cc’s. This really tells me that someone was hunting with a shotgun, not a rifle, hoping to hit and slow down at least one of us without extra effort.

We’re talking about email, people! It’s not like they were worried about postage! What would an employer say to a letter like this? “To Whom It May Concern: I would really like to work for your company, but I don’t think I should have to do any research about what you do, or what you ask for. I don’t have to follow any of your rules, since I’m so incredible you’ll be in a bidding war for my services. Oh, yes, I don’t have much in the way of publishing credits, but that shouldn’t worry you.Please call me back tomorrow. Sincerely, Princess Poet OR Frog Prince.”

Believe me, every time you send your work out in the world, you are applying for a job, that of writer.

If you don’t follow general guidelines, you leave the impression you might be difficult to work with. This leads me to a third category of poems — those with potential, maybe some minor fixing or clarification to bring out their souls.

This pile is reviewed several times, under different circumstances. Some poems take more concentration to grasp, and are worth the effort. Some may need a bit of rearrangement of images, or a shift to present tense, reduction of “ing” words and unneeded articles. Poetry doesn’t have to have complete sentences, cover all gaps. I read these poems aloud for cadence, rhyme, awkwardness or smoothness of sounds.

Before you send anything in — even (in my opinion) novels or non-fiction, but especially poems — read it aloud. Hear what you’ve written, listen to how the sounds complement, contrast, enhance your intent. Where do you breathe? Is it clear from the poem? I know that my Mac desktop computer, and my Windows 7 laptop, have a text-to-voice program that will read your words to you. Usually this is part of “accessibility” options. Turn it on and try it.

There are two other general categories of poems that don’t make it into our publication:

— Those that aren’t quite the quality level yet, perhaps too cliche-driven, forced rhyme, or otherwise not appropriate for Apollo’s Lyre in subject matter. Not all poems are right for all publications. That’s where the search for publishers is important. Read back issues.

— Some incredibly wonderful poems may not be used simply because we don’t have room to publish everything we want, and/or we have other similar poems we’re using. Choosing is hard! Two poems about very similar subjects requires a decision about which one is “best” for us, at the time. I wish the poets success placing the ones I’ve passed on.

I’m as susceptible as anyone else when it comes to being treated fairly, with respect, understanding, and a willingness for a poet to work with me to edit a poem. Usually I’m right with my suggestions, since I’m approaching it with some distance; it isn’t my baby, but I care about it. Sometimes I’m wrong; I just didn’t “get it” about what was intended. When I’ve heard the background, I understand, and might suggest a few words be added to the bio, to help the reader understand, too.

I’m blown away at the talent out there, and here with our blog. I hope some of this helps you get ready for your next batch of outgoing angels. Help them fly to their destination, and not get eaten by the nasty gatekeeping trolls (like me!).

Let us know if you try this, and it works — we’ll spotlight your success. And, if you share other ideas of where to submit poems, we’ll keep an active spot here, giving you credit for it, of course.

Keep writing!

Michele

 

 

Capturing the Elusive Villanelle

Garden of the Gods, Colorado. © Graf 2006

Maybe “deconstructing” is a better word for what follows.

I love a well-constructed, nuance-laden, tension-building poem — especially one with lines or phrases repeated, each time expanding on the underlying theme. When it works, it really works. When I dabble in a structured form, I need to take it apart and put it back together in a way that makes sense to me.

Over the years, I created my own versions of “cheat sheets” — today they are usually called “templates” — for a variety of poetic forms, when it was important to have a set number of syllables or sounds per line;  control the number of lines in each stanza, especially if the stanzas are not constructed the same — like the villanelle. I’ve used them with haikus, tankas, ghazels, alternating voice layout, and for song lyrics — especially useful to bridge beats, where you want to stretch out a sound.

My Villanelle template and construction process are simpler than it appears at first glance.  I:

1. Took as my guide the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, which Margaret used when she introduced the form.

2. Identified the rhyme pattern alongside each line, as Margaret explained. To make it easier, I highlighted the first line and each repetition that followed, then used a different color highlighter, and did the same for the third line. Since the only other rhyme was with line 2, I highlighted the last word in each of the “B/b” lines (below is a portion)

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)


… and so on.

Then, I:

3. Counted the number of syllables per line (ten); the number stanzas and lines per stanza (five stanzas of three lines each (tercets), plus one stanza of four lines (a quatrain)); the total number of lines I needed, including a blank line between stanzas (24 lines total)

Next step was to write my first three lines, using the right number of syllables or sounds, and the right pattern, knowing that the first and third lines would be repeated several times in the poem:

   We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.

This gave me the shape of the form. Time to do the template. I:

4. Created a table with eleven columns across (one for each of the ten syllables needed in each line, PLUS a first column with the rhyme pattern), and 24 rows (for each filled and blank line in the poem)

5. Shaded in the rows that were stanza breaks (rows 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20; I didn’t create a column to number the rows — just counted down)

6. Filled in each of the first three rows, one syllable per each cell across the table, in columns 2 – 11, with my first tercet.

7. went back to column one, and, with my trusty Thomas poem, wrote in what the rhyme pattern needed to be.

8. filled in on my template where lines one and three were repeated

9. really cheated on the next step! I wrote the sound I needed to repeat (in parentheses) in the last column of each line. Yes, I’ve creatively split words as I sounded them for the cells.

… (the complete template is at the end of this post)

10. then came up with a bunch of words that rhymed with each of the endings of the two lines.

A1 and A3:  do/ taboo (DO) — view, new, clue, avenue, cue, due
B1: accident (DENT) — amazement, evident, coincident, bent, went, event, dent, sent

Then the creative process really started:

11. I wrote the poem from the last stanza forward — I knew how it started; that was already written. I decided how I wanted it to end, and, using the list of “sound alike” words, figured how to end each of the lines in the quatrain.

12. Worked my way through the poem, looking at the rhyming words I’d come up with, and moved them around.

13. wrote lines, juggled them from tercet to tercet, until they made sense to me.

And, voila! Though this is still a work in progress, you can see how each step shaped this draft of the poem’s cadence, flow, rhythm, content, and context. Now the work begins, to hone it into a sharp, complete story. Like Mary’s poem, my subject is dark. I hope to capture the same sense as hers did.

Ever Thus
by Michele M. Graf

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do;
paths drag us into, not by accident,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

You may argue with me, bellow your view;
we both know how those branches get so bent:
we claim our fear and ghosts by what we do.

Mourn the loss, the lack of hope for the new
words to stop needless blood so poorly spent.
Territory steep in our deep taboo.

Paint it, gloss it, but you can’t hide the hue
of euphemism masking what is meant.
We claim our fear and ghosts by what we do

when we rant, and rave, call it just miscue,
no longer valid — such self-evident
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Fate enters laughing when it all comes due.
Can how its end not be coincident?
We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Meet Magdalena Ball, author of Black Cow

We’re excited to host Magdalena Ball — poet, fiction writer, mentor, friend we’ve not had the pleasure of meeting in person (yet) — as she travels cyberspace to share her latest book Black Cow. Most stops on her schedule focus on the novel and writing fiction. Here, she’s at home in poetry, and gave us permission to post the poem that started the story.

Poetic Muselings:  Maggie, welcome to the Poetic Muselings blog! You are to blame, you know, for what we as a group have accomplished.

Maggie Ball:  I enjoyed writing writing that blog post, and was so proud of what you’ve accomplished with Lifelines. But blame? Perhaps your readers should take a look at the post:  Am I Really to Blame?

PM: Is there anything you’d LIKE to talk about that doesn’t come up in on your book tour?

MB:  Would love to talk poetry.  I know that seems odd in the context of a fiction book tour, but for me I always start with poetry – the impression, the irritation, the itch.

I even began Black Cow as a poem many years ago (it’s published in my poetry book Repulsion Thrust) as I always do with fiction, getting the general overall feeling and theme I want clarified in poetic form before I begin to work on the formal structuring, characterisation and plotting.

So, since I know no one else will ask me if there’s anything I’d like to talk about (thank you!), I thought I’d provide the whole poem in its entirety.  When you read the book, and for anyone visiting who has read the book, I’d be interested in how close to my original conception I came.

PM: We love exclusives! Thank you. We have your poem at the end of this interview.

PM: As I began reading Black Cow, I was struck by your startling poetic images to describe the mundane. Freya, your “Mom” character scratched out a tiny bit of time for herself to workout, in an early scene. She isn’t doing it to feel better, but because it’s another thing that’s expected of her. I loved the language about grabbing a bite to eat:

“Talk about insect morphology. She felt like an arthropod right now, her mandibulate mouthparts working quickly to munch down a late lunch in the car on the way to the office.”

This is Kafka meets American Beauty! Can you share something about your process?

MB:  Well I must say I like “Kafka meets American Beauty”  (better than the “Dilbert meets The Good Life” riff I’ve been bandying about!). You know, aside from being a long time fan of Kafka’s (and Gregor Samsa was definitely on my mind when I wrote James’ character), I’m also a fan of American Beauty, and the idea of a stressed out real estate agent has been on my mind since seeing (several times) Annette Bening’s “I will sell this house today” scene followed by that amazing scream  So you’ve really nailed it, and maybe even nailed my process as well in a very tasty soundbite. 

A character or image will lodge itself in my head and won’t go away until it’s driving me crazy enough to want to write about it.  The idea of our modern obsession with ‘success’ and the way in which we’re driven harder by financial trouble rather than reorienting is something that I also couldn’t shake.  My first novel, Sleep Before Evening, was very much about youth and art as my female Portrait of the Artist.   

For Black Cow I really wanted to play around with middle-aged creativity and the work-life balance in the context of recession, financial crisis, and consumerism of the sort that is rampant in American Beauty.  So these were the motivating principles.  I always begin with a poem or two, then a story, and then I usually begin mapping out the scenes and structure and characters of the novel, getting the nitty gritty in place before I can then go and write more scenes.

PM: Do you have a favorite scene in Black Cow? If so, what makes it so?

MBI quite like the scene where the family arrives at Cradle Lake in Tasmania for their first holiday.  Mainly because it’s so beautiful there, I was able to just give in to the utter pleasure of the scene and describe it, but also because it’s a real epiphany for them all – a kind of turning point when they’re so stunned by the natural beauty of the place –the magic of reality to use Dawkins’ phrase, that it wakes them up, just a bit, becoming a catalyst for everything that happens afterwards.

PM: What else can you tell us about the poetry of Black Cow?

MBI wasn’t quite so free and easy in quoting other people’s poems as I was in Sleep Before Evening, but Wordsworth does get a look in, as does The Prose Eddas, a fairly important collection of Icelandic mythology generally thought to have been written by Snorri Sturluson in the year 1220.  This work is a combination of prose and poetry but has a rhythm, and many references to poetry and Norse mythology which also picks up on Freya’s name and background.

PM: Any other questions you wish you’d be asked as you wander around the universe?

MBI suspect that people will want to know where to pick up a copy (and will want one straightaway!), so they could just hive off right now to Amazon’s Kindle shop and be reading the book within seconds.  Apple has it too, as does Nook. It’s also available in print on AmazonBook Depository (free worldwide shipping!), BeWrite Books (my publisher) and other good bookstores (you could just ask for it in your local shop).  For anyone who wants to check out an excerpt, they can visit: this page.  Or can check out the Black Cow Book Trailer

I’m more than happy to send out custom autographed bookplates, so people should just drop me a line if they’ve got a hard copy and I’ll happily post off a bookplate, bookmark and a few other goodies.

PM: I know you’ll never be far from your vivid imagery, no matter what you write, Maggie. Thank you so much for allowing us to present the genesis of your book here.

Maggie’s Farm

when the good life calls
simplicity for loose change
pressure drop freedom
you answer

like Voltaire
lock the door
walk ten miles in fancy shoes
remove dreams from your pockets
a dozen crumpled receipts
and kiss the ground

the dirt tastes like shit
bodysore and boneache you fall asleep
each night
dead tired
no time to toss and tease
sleep matters now

it isn’t heaven
no candy floss choirs
fanning your every sweat
each serve on your battered table
reflects a cut or bruise
muscle knit tendon job
unlike anything you ever imagined
in those tower block days
glassed in tight

a pretty prison
escaped

Magdalena Ball  http://magdalenaball.com/wordpress/

http://www.magdalenaball.blogspot.com/

Lifelines and Apollo’s Lyre nominated for P&E Awards

(Updated with corrected links)

Critters / Critique.org  hosts the annual Preditors & Editors™ Readers’ Poll which honors print & electronic publications published during 2011. (Click here for the official rules.)

DEADLINE FOR VOTING IS JAN. 10, 2012.

Lifelines, our Poetic Muselings anthology, is nominated in several categories. Also, Apollo’s Lyre is nominated in three categories, including Best Poetry ezine — as editor of the poetry column, I’m especially excited. Links and details are below.

To vote in this poll, you must fill in your name and email and the scrambled letters in a “captcha” box — this way they can decide that a real person is voting. You will receive an email with a confirming link to follow, which validates your vote.

Nominees are listed alphabetically in each category, so you can find your favorites that way. We would appreciate your support and your vote for us in the following categories:

Anthology — (Lifelines)
http://critters.org/predpoll/antho.shtml

Book cover, Lifelines, Lin Neiswender
http://www.critters.org/predpoll/bookart.shtml

Poets, Poetic Muselings
http://critters.org/predpoll/poet.shtml

Poetry ezine — Apollo’s Lyre
http://critters.org/predpoll/poetryzine.shtml

There are many other categories being honored. Please check them out including:

Other Apollo’s Lyre nominations are Fiction ezine and ezine editor Jim Harrington   http://critters.org/predpoll/fictionzine.shtml,  http://critters.org/predpoll/zineeditor.shtml

ThePoetic Muselings grew out of the Muse Online Writers Conference, which is nominated under best writers workshops. Learn more about this outstanding conference by following the link with the poll:
http://critters.org/predpoll/writerws.shtml

And we have publishers to vote for, too. InkSpotter, our publisher, is on the list, as is MuseItUp, connected to the Muse Conference:
http://critters.org/predpoll/ebookpublisher.shtml

We thank you for your consideration of us on this poll, and would be happy to hear your comments.

Coming on Friday — the long-awaited results of our contest. Very difficult challenge, but we are ready to post it. Again, our deepest thanks to all of out participants.

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