Truths About How Hard Writing Is

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Hello, dearies. Sorry, this blog has been a bit bleak this summer. It’s been rather chaotic and I have spent more time writing in my notebook than writing online. (my book review company, BookLookBloggers) finally said, that’s it, you do not have an account with us because you are not blogging or reviewing enough…. My bad.

So I have been focusing on writing my poetry for weeks now; months. I had read that Ada Limon needed just a few more poems for her new book. I can’t say when it was that I read that. Somewhere on her Twitter account a while ago, and I totally get that feeling. I have a 62-page manuscript right now, and technically that’s all I have to have for the publication that I plan to submit to, but I’m not stopping. I feel like once I started focusing solely on poetry, the floodgates opened for the most part.

Poetry doesn’t always come. I struggle sometimes with getting anything out and when I go to my writing group sometimes I sit there for 45 minutes while everyone else is writing and at the end I have maybe started or dabbled in something but the response is “I got nothing.” I have weird blocks where I have all these ideas and I start an idea, or ten, but it never goes anywhere. Recently I had something in my head about being in a western bar and I was just kind of blanked out on that. Partly because I don’t go to western bars. I stay in at night. Drinking coffee.

But last night one of our new breweries was having live music and I have been meaning to get up and have a pint, so I went up. It was technically a total waste of my time because the music wasn’t clear enough to hear, though the tunes were good, and the brewer’s own brew was out….. And I only visited with people in my parent’s age… Pardon the complaining… But the blip of time I was there drinking a porter gave me a few lines to get me over the hump of what I’m writing. It was good research even if that wasn’t the reason I had gone. Sometimes it’s the funniest things that help switch the storyline.

I have a story I started writing a couple of years ago about kid friends who meet later on in life and it was a struggle to get anywhere with it till I had a dream last year that changed the whole narrative. Now it’s actually got a place to go.

I was reading an article last night; The 8 Hard Truths All Aspiring Writer’s Must Accept Despite The Pain. One paragraph explained how we chisel out and poke, prod and eek out the right line, the best sentence, the perfect way to say something. Poetry for me is that. I sit there sometimes and I’ll write a line and go, okay, this isn’t bad, but after reading it over and over you know it just isn’t right.

I wrote a poem in regards to Jack Kerouac the other day and I was really happy with it, but one line kept irking me and I couldn’t figure out why. In the line

‘Lost boy, did all the stars fall down and burn out?’ where the word fall is, I had the word come and it was nice, but it wasn’t just the right thing. Why such a simple word change makes a difference I don’t know, but it does. This is where I get why other poets say trimming the fat on poetry is hard. You have so little to work with that it really is a challenge and a struggle. Does it come more easy to me? Sure, but that doesn’t make writing poetry easy.

I have taken to writing longer narrative type poems, introducing a character that is the writer for the poem, not me, and seriously, one poem takes the oomph out of me for days. It takes days to write it, but afterwards, I’m kind of wandering around feeling like I have run a marathon. Sometimes I only write one poem a week.

This writing thing comes easy to me, but it’s still hard. If that is one thing I could tell nonwriters it’s that. You may think being a writer is glamorous, and there are times when you get an accolade from a friend or colleague and it’s a nice boost, but all those other times when you are in the dark, pounding, scribbling, or fighting to get it out it’s gosh darn hard. Would I give it up? No, but sometimes I wonder where my sanity lies and I wonder if I will ever make it.

Everyone says I will, but that self-doubt… well it’s a doozy.

Read the article, because it’s pretty cool in its succinctness.

Kate

 

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Current Poetry Reads and Consuming Poetry

My lovely friend Dona has told me I am the poet tender in our writing group, while another person is her poet tender in her other group. I take that as high praise as, while I adore poetry, don’t feel I am that well versed in it. However, I seem to be the one collecting the poetry books and reading the poetry, and currently, reading, writing and consuming poetry. So maybe I am.   I am far from being an expert, which my father says is a has been drip under pressure…. get it? Ex and a spurt?… haha, your joke for the day.  Anyways, I don’t know most forms, though I can give you some basic, and I don’t do meter or metre… whichever one it is…… and I can barely do rhyming schemes. I try, I really do, but I’m best at free verse. I can’t even do blank verse very well, though I have tried. For those who don’t know, blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter.

As a poetry writing, reading, consuming whatever, I am currently consuming poetry. I’m reading it daily and hourly and weekly. I went on a poetry ordering binge in my library recently. After receiving those books, I binged again. I can only order ten books at a time. Ten! Who thought that up? Writers need more than the ten books they can order. I need to order at least twenty things at all times. And I only can have twenty things out at one time. Seriously, this library system up here needs to know how writers work! But I seriously digress.  So I have been consuming poetry at every point of the day. I should mention that I am also listening to a lot of music that has marvelous lyrics, which is poetry. The jazz doesn’t count, as it’s all instrumental, but seriously, Miles Davis is a poet with his horn. Oh, gosh I could swoon.

Here is a current list of what I have read and am reading.

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon. I can’t say enough about that book other than I swoon.

 

Patient Zero by Tomas Q. Morin.  This guy has become my newest favorite, not to mention a muse in a poem.

 

Elegy for a Broken Machine : poems by Patrick Phillips.  Quirky, irreverent, spot on.

 

Falling Awake by Alice Oswald.  Strange enough to make me cringe, but I like it.

 

Essential Bukowski : poetry by Charles Bukowski.  This guy is certainly edgy. But I like it. A lot.

 

Catalog ofUunabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay.  Unique and kind of edgy and sing songy and and and…

 

The Selected Poems of Donald Hall by Donald Hall.  I haven’t quite decided if I like these or not. Some yes, some no.

 

So these are just a sampling of what I have out. I actually have a couple more, but I don’t like them. At all. So I won’t be mean and list the authors. I also haven’t listed the three Billy Collins books I recently took back, because, well I have raved about the man enough, haven’t I? And I have a stack of more books coming soon, I hope. So, happy reading time. Overwhelming reading sometimes.  I think my writing is changing. For the better I hope.

What are some poetry books you recommend? Or authors you like. I love getting recommendations because, well, I’m consuming it!

Kate

Entering Into Poetry Manuscript Crazy Feeling

I had a brilliant idea two weeks ago. I am going to collect my poetry into a manuscript for submitting in the fall.

Cue crickets chirping and questioning looks.

I get it. Even I’m sitting here thinking, ‘wow I’m ambitiously optimistic.’ Considering I’ve only ever submitted my poetry to Writer’s Digest Poem A Day things. I’ve never sent my poetry out into the world. I have designs on doing that. I just haven’t gotten around to doing it. But after reading Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon, I looked at the publisher and thought I would look them up. Then I found out they have open submissions for 60-page manuscripts in September.  I have four months to get a manuscript together. So far I have 33 decent poems. (I undervalue all of my writing) All unpublished, all unsubmitted except for Writer’s Digest. Even I’m not sure if I’m crazy or not.

Yes, I doubt myself all the time. I know I enjoy my own poetry, but everyone enjoys their own poetry. I think that’s a given. If you don’t like your own, well… I can’t help you. Really. I have enough issues with my own. I think it all stems from comparing myself to what I consider, great writers. Ada Limon is my new favorite (though I’ve been reading her for a year) along with my standards of Billy Collins.  I should probably stop raving about him. I have poetry books I feel I need, but all are pricier than I can afford after splurging recently and getting my dog his painkillers (talking pricey) The splurge was not the painkillers. 😛

Anyways, I compare myself to ‘great writers’ thinking that I’m ho hum. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. My writing group is fantastic about listening to my poetry. I think I have found my ‘voice’ so to speak (haha) in regards to style. And I’ve only just started getting comfortable with not always being nice in my poetry. I’ve started swearing some, because sometimes you just need to use the word ‘fuck’ and it fits. Sometimes you just have to swear.

Getting to the raw aspect of poetry is the challenge too. Maybe that’s why while I like Mary Oliver‘s poetry, it’s too pretty for my tastes. This coming from someone that likes to write nature poetry. But she’s just not my thing at the point. Hence Ada Limon; or Clint Smith, though I don’t have his book yet. If you click this link, you can read his poem My Jump Shot. It’s down a few poems. I heard him read it recently when he spoke with Billy Collins at Drake University.  Oh. My. Gosh. I love it. (coming from a girl who did not have a single sports gene in her.)

I think this is also why I don’t write a lot of rhyming poetry. It’s too pretty, so to speak when it comes to angst. Or at least in my opinion. That and really, rhyming poetry is freaking hard sometimes.

Just ask my sonnet months. Le Sigh.

Anyways, I am ‘hard’ at work compiling poetry. Some of it is from my November PAD submission, but most are from my poetry filling up all of my notebooks, spilling out and not having a place to go. Who knew I had so much floating around. I keep coming upon more poems and it’s like a mini Christmas thrill. “Ooh, I found another one!”

So, there’s my week. Another week putting off the novel I started, which got all of about 20 pages into a comp book, at the most. Thankfully that has a formula and a plot (yes, from this plotless writer it has a plot!) so I can come back to it at almost any time. But poetry is filling up my waking hours and thoughts.

Kate

Dabbling…In and Highlighting NOPW

Writer’s Digest and the Poem a Day (PAD) started and we are here on day 15 with hardly anything to show for it. I started feeling a bit guilty that I wasn’t following along and cranking out a poem for every prompt. Till I got to the halfway point and said, fine, I don’t care. I stopped worrying about it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to play catch up.

Ironically, I was able to crank out 4 poems in 45 minutes the other day with my writing group. Granted, they aren’t that great, though three have promise if I clean them up. I still probably won’t accomplish PAD, but I might be able to dabble in a few more. Sometimes it takes me a while to get back to finding a poem in a simple prompt. This coming from someone that can usually come up with something with just about anything. Give me a picture, let me stare at it for a few minutes, and I can usually start off on the start of a story, or idea. Maybe not a poem, but definitely something.

For some reason though, this time around, the prompts have left me, well, hanging. Maybe it’s me. Today’s prompt is a Two for Tuesday is a Life or Death poem. Honestly, this one hits close to home as I have a friend who’s wife at 30 had a stroke then found out she had cancer. Talk about being hit by a wall.  Talk about a subject that triggers all kinds of things.

But a good segue to bring up something.  For those interested, there is a GoFundMe for my friend and his wife here at, Lift For Lainee, and I also want to bring attention to National Orange Popsicle Week or NOPW which brings awareness to those who have had a stroke at a young age. As they say “We consider a young stroke survivor to have had their stroke under the age of 45 because most statistics show that 45 is considered young for having a stroke. 20-to-64-year-olds make up 31 percent of all strokes.”  Who knew it was kind of rare? I didn’t. And talk about a life changing thing to have to relearn how to walk, or move, or speak, or, well, do just about anything we take for granted. I urge anyone to take a look at NOPW which has a rather cool story as to the name….  You can also check out their Facebook page here NOPW-FB.

Do you know of someone that has suffered a stroke at a young age? Maybe you would be interested in the site and organization.

Also, you can see why life and death have been on my mind, not to mention another dear friend who has had to go back in for another round of chemo. How does one even rationalize death or the word ‘cancer’ and not think of death?  Despite being a believer and knowing where I end up when I die, death still is something I struggle with. Surprisingly, I haven’t experienced much death in my life other than two great- grandparents, one at an early age. It hasn’t been one of those things where I even remember it much. So as friends age, or get sick, it comes to my mind.

I am reminded of Dylan Thomas’ poem do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (which I may or may not have mentioned in a recent post about Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas….)

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

SO good friends who read this blog….. Do not go gentle into that good night….

Kate

Listening To Bob Dylan

American folk and rock singer Bob Dylan, who was born on the 24th of may in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. — Image by © 91040/dpa/Corbis

Recently I have taken to liking Bob Dylan and his music. Not all of it, but a select few. I find it funny since I used to inwardly scoff at his music. Possibly because he was popular during the Vietnam War. Why that should make any difference at all doesn’t make any sense since I particularly like music from the 60s and 70s. Maybe it’s because I can actually appreciate the story being told in one of his many songs, whereas before, I was more interested in the beat. I didn’t know how connected to stories in songs I would get over the years of writing.

The first song I remember being introduced to was ‘Lay, Lady, Lay‘, and at the time I didn’t even know it was Dylan. But I fell in love with it. Over the years I’ve slowly added to my small collection of his songs. The stories in all of them are magical and as a writer, I can appreciate the condensed tale told.  I actually wonder if contemporary folk music appeals to the writer in us due to the story being told? I can honestly say that country music that has a story, I do have to quantify it, appeals to me. I like songs without a story, in fact, most of what I listen to wouldn’t qualify as much of a story and more of a ‘feeling’.  But if I start really thinking about songs that grab and hold me, they tell a story.

Thinking about Bob Dylan always reminds me of something I read in Poemcrazy where Susan Wooldridge was talking about him carrying around an armload of words. Turns out, it wasn’t Bob Dylan she was talking about, but Dylan Thomas, the poet. While I have a book of his poetry, I’m not as familiar with his works, so somehow I thought it was  Bob Dylan. While I had the person wrong, I still picture Bob Dylan carrying around armloads of words, racing to get to his black typewriter, up winding stairs in a small garret at an Irish inn on dreary, wet Irish days.

The actual quote about Dylan Thomas from Poemcrazy is as follows:

Dylan Thomas loved the words he heard and saw around him in Wales. “When I experience anything,” he once said, “I experience it as a thing and a word at the same time, both equally amazing.” Writing one ballad, he said, was like carrying around an armload of words to a table upstairs and wondering if he’d get there in time.

My image is certainly fanciful at best in regards to Bob Dylan. Who knows if he used a typewriter or wrote his music in Ireland.  I know I’m probably completely wrong, but if you listen to his words you feel the lyrical quality, and I can’t help but imagine the songwriter is this way. In Ireland. Go figure.

I carry boatloads of words in my head constantly. I have lost countless poems or starts of poems by not having paper at hand when I need it. I have a small pocket journal I have just for this reason, but like my camera when I don’t have it I need it and when I do have it I don’t need it, my writing is the same way. I never write when I have paper at hand. I write when I am scrambling frantically for any scrap piece of paper at hand. Netflix flyers, bill envelopes, receipts, margins of something and various other odd places. I have a folder/envelope of scraps of paper with the starts of poems. I have been meaning to transcribe them onto a document, or into one notebook, but I have yet to sit down and do anything with it. The question of, ‘Will I ever really use that and do I need to compile it all down?’ frequently hits my mind.

There is a panic that starts when I can’t find paper. I try to repeat the lines over and over in my head in the hopes that I will remember it for the next five minutes till I find paper, but inevitably I am asked a question, interrupted or just don’t have a moment to grab a paper and pencil.  It’s aggravating like that itch you can’t scratch. Knowing that the lines were just there. If only there was a way to scoop all those words up in a bucket that holds onto them until you can come back to collect them.

I try to make sure I keep a notebook, journal or index card with me whenever I go out. Of course, because I have that ready, I rarely write out in public.

In no particular order, Bob Dylan songs I currently love are, Lay, Lady, Lay, The Girl From The North Country, Mr. Tamborine Man, To Fall in Love With You, and Shelter From The Storm.

My one Dylan Thomas poem I currently keep rereading due to a friend’s young wife having cancer and is recovering from a stroke, is Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.

 

The Old Pirate – Poem

The Old Pirate

Under the old clock towers on a full moon night
and the asphalt and cobblestones are wet with a shine
he clomps and staggers in cracked leather boots.
He once was a pirate by trade
sailing off to adventures a many
looting and pillaging and carousing around
letting the gold slip and tumble through his fingers
as easily as the rum slipped down his throat
so full of life was he, till it came back to bite.
A rabid dog bite of a drunken haze.
He’s a cloak of invisibility of old man now
worn and tired and rather gray
aged and fat and a little more drunk
ancient adventures lost in delusional bursts
brandishing half empty bottles and shouting
the insanity creeping insidiously in
slumped on the cold stone steps.
He’s less than half the man of long ago
when he was a dashing charming sort.
Now all that’s left is this sad old man
sailing off in memories long forgotten
growing colder under the towers of time
till time eventually stops and he’s frozen
no longer anything but a once told tale
when the morning comes and they heave him so
up into a cart and tossed not into the sea
but to earth interned never to sail again.

 

I was feeling uninspired by the prompts I pulled for writing at my writing group this morning. So Sera graciously offered to pull some for me. I should have requested a random pulling instead of specifically looking for ones…. I know what you did, Sera…., but she pulled ‘full moon, clock towers, he was a pirate, grey silk, adventure, cloak of invisibility.’  I added in my one ‘wet asphalt’ and suddenly I was picturing the ‘wish realm’ version of Captain Hook that was featured recently on Once Upon a Time. But then I thought, what would this old pirate look like in the real world and would he drink himself to death….? Apparently he became that way, though there were some that didn’t realize I killed off this pirate. Hopefully it’s clear.  Enjoy this very random piece of poetry, and very open verse as well.

Kate

Bit Behind

I’ve been a little uninspired, a little behind, and a bit busy to post. I have things in the works, but I’m not getting a lot of time to write blog posts with life getting in the way. Life is very good at doing that. Not to mention distractions and wanting to read instead of write.

Hopefully something new soon.

Kate

Guest Posts Are Like Crocheting A Present

oliver-thomas-klein-207908Just this last week I wrote a guest post for Patti, who is writing the biography of my favorite author, Emilie Loring. You can read my guest post here. Guest Post: I Became a Writer Because of Emilie Loring.

I have only written two guest posts in my blogging life. It’s not that I don’t like writing guest posts, but I actually usually avoid them because they are like when I crochet a present for someone. How you ask?

Well, see when I write for my blog, I am not always grammatically correct and I throw in fragments and quirky writing. But when I am writing a guest post, I sit there and try to revert back to my high school English. Or at least to the best of my remembrance of the rules. Language was never my strong suit and I never really liked it. Ironic as I am a writer.

So I try to make a post as neat and tidy as possible. To which you are asking why this is like a crochet project.

When I am crocheting a something for someone, I am worried about every little stitch and have been known to take out entire rows because I missed one stitch that I could easily add in later, but to me it’s obvious. If it were something for myself, I might fudge it. But for a gift, it had better be pretty darn neat and tidy.

Same applies to guest posts. I like to be grammatically correct and sound like a writer. My writing gets messy and goes all over the place. Oh sure, I go back and clean things up for a lot of writing, but not always with a blog post. Sometimes I let a typo slip. Or I don’t worry if something rambles on. Now that I use Grammarly, it kind of warns me when I’m getting really messy, and sometimes I take its suggestion, but I still like to let my writing show me. I am a cluttered person and my thought process is very strange sometimes, but it is me.

That guest post is like standing on stage and straightening your skirt and making sure your hair is smoothed down. You want to like slightly presentable.

But I still enjoy doing a guest post here and there. Haha, my two! How do you feel about guest posting?  Or how do you feel about others guest posting for you? I’ve never asked someone to write a guest post. I always feel a little protective of my blog so I’ve been afraid to ask someone to guest post for me. Maybe I need to step out of my comfort zone.

Kate

Beginnings

Every week Les writes for about 30 minutes. That’s it. 30 minutes every Saturday in our writing group. She writes beginnings. She pulls a prompt and from there runs with it. She never finishes the story, leaving us in an agonizing hanging sort of way as we wonder what happens. But each week she pulls a new prompt and starts a new beginning. She says she is going to write a book of her beginnings. I rather like that idea. A book of starts. You could travel off with them yourself, or heck, as our writing group suggested, have them for a creative writing class in high school where the kids have to finish the stories.

I actually understand that feeling. Writing a beginning. Most of my ideas for novels came from a beginning from a dream mixed with a song lyric or song and some random thought. Nothing fancy, but suddenly a whole world has exploded out into this world of characters that are connected to other novel’s characters.  I know, books start with beginnings. It’s a duh moment. But what I mean is, I never plan to have a novel. I never sit down and go, “I’m going to write a novel.” I just have an idea so I start writing a ‘blurb’ of sorts, and then I’m planning houses and names and places they visit and who is in like with who (I say like because while love is the ultimate goal, it starts off as a like).

John Ireland in 1917, by Jane Emmet de Glehn

John Ireland in 1917, by Jane Emmet de Glehn

Today I woke up to the sounds of a piano boldly crashing as my alarm radio zinged on to NPR’s First Concert Saturday…. John Ireland’s Legend symphony was 3 minutes in and it hit me like a Rachmaninoff dirge. But I kind of liked it. In a “it woke me up jazzed and ready for my writing group” sort of inspiration.  So I wrote a beginnings because of it.

“She woke to the sounds of John Ireland’s ‘Legend’ symphony. Dramatic piano’s plundering the deep and depth of a gray and solemn day. Raw like Rachmaninoff. Depressing. Moody. The radio crackled with static as the pounding woke her up, her mind light-hearted and ready to start the day despite the dirge.”

That’s it. Nothing much, but a beginning non-the-less. I like the idea of a book of beginnings. Most of my writing group, other than the unholy writings of Sera who had too many novels plotted out, writes beginnings. Maybe it’s just our way of getting a start.

Kate

Writer’s Don’t Take Sick Days

czhuxiqjilg-alejandro-escamillaOkay, we do, but it’s different. While we might be tucked under the covers, a thermometer in our mouth, an ice bag on our heads, we are still writing in the midst of being sick. For me, it was random snippets of poetry that I actually forgot to write down so needless to say, promptly forgot. I have used being sick to be a whole plot point for one of my novels. This time around, my flu was so nasty I wasn’t up for much in regards to writing, having to actually cancel my writing group. I did sit down today and work on a piece of short fiction for my local library’s writing contest. It’s an annual thing and I enter off and on over the years. This year the theme

It’s an annual thing and I enter off and on over the years. This year the theme is “Snowed In” and I have actually dabbled in a story about being snowed in. Downside, it’s close to ten thousand words which exceed the 3-page limit with this contest. Not to mention it’s more romantic and adult to send off for just the heck of it. So I started working on a new story, that after reading the premise to my writing group two weeks ago, they said (or completed for me) was a Hallmark story. I had the image of this snowed in cabin and from there I got a three-page story.

Now, seriously, I find it hard to write a beginning, middle, and end three-page story. Just over 2 thousand words, I’m a little impressed this worked and I do actually have all three parts. It might be a bit choppy, but you can’t add much detail into a three-page story. (have I stated this is a three-page story? Just checking) I’ve kept it to just some dialogue, a bit of a back story, and even an epilogue of sorts. I’ll let it settle in and ‘bake’ for a bit before the submission date at the end of the month. I might make it better, I might see some areas that need correcting.  I wouldn’t mind making it longer and add in detail, but you know, sometimes the best stories are short and sweet.

But like I was getting at, at the beginning. Even while being sick, and being uninspired most of the time (it’s hard to be inspired while coughing, running a fever and not feeling like eating) I still find myself writing. Now if only I could remember the poetry I didn’t write down.

Kate