Showing posts from 2014

Writing Short-Writing Long

Darkness unfolds like a cape over the earth turning the sky a deep blue and draining color from every object outside my window. The dark trees are illumined with holiday lights and inflatable Santas and snowmen decorate the front lawns of neighborhood houses. In my writing room I am gearing up for the coming new year.

Today, being the first day of winter, seems like the perfect time to make my writing plans for 2015 and they are many and varied. The novel is taking a back seat to some other writing projects and upcoming online classes as I assess the things I want to do with my writing life in conjunction with the amount of time I have to spend on each work-in-progress.

The classes that line up for January include a six month long memoir course, a course in getting short stories published (because it's time I sent out my little flash fiction darlings to some journals so they can grow up in the world of literature,) and a journaling class with Amber Starfire. This class will facilita…

Where do You Write?

Where do you set yourself when you begin to write? Do you have several fave spots or one particular corner that beckons your muse?

Natalie Goldberg in "Writing Down the Bones," as well as other writers of inspirational writing books, suggests going to public places like libraries, cafes, diners, the park. They claim the noise and chaos of such places helps to dispel the inner critic so you can get down into that deep place in your soul where poems, stories, and personal reminiscences begin. I've tried it with minimal success.

I have strolled quiet arboretums and grasped a few poems that flitted through the air, inspired by a rippled river, a particular dahlia blossom or the erratic walk of a heron poking in the mud for a midday snack.

I have forced myself to write in the cafe at Barnes and Noble when I had a plot snag to work out. And a few poems emerged there while being nosy and spying on other people enjoying coffee, tea and perhaps a scone. But in bookstores I am to…

Mixed Genres--Part II

It's cold here in the northeast. The days are so short you barely feel sunlight on your skin. I wake and leave for work in the dark and get home in the dark. I only see daylight if I find a brief few seconds to go for a walk at lunch time or sneak next door for a hazelnut coffee from Subway, which I have become quite enamored of. I wouldn't say I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder but the winter certainly is not a warm and happy season. But there is always light.

I mentioned already that I have plotted a novella-in-flash-stories and will write it as a chapbook for the Rose Metal Press chapbook contest in November. I have a second idea for another flash fiction chapbook as well as a flash nonfiction chapbook. So I will be writing quite a bit in 2015.

Although will take a lot of my creative time, there are still other creative projects brewing. Rose Metal Press just announced a mixed-genre contest with a May 30 deadline and I need, badly need, to take advantage of this oppo…

A Mixed Bag of Genres

As most of you readers know I write in a variety of genres and never seem to be able to focus on just one. I write poetry, short stories, novels, memoir and essays. I also dabble in art journaling and mixed media. But the combining of genres into one project is something I've only touched on, having once written a memoir in poetry and short fiction.

A few weeks ago, while taking a short hiatus from my novel, I had an idea for a novella in flash fiction. And now I have learned this is not a new concept.

Rose Metal Press just released a book titled "My Very End of the Universe" which is a collection of novellas-in-flash. It is comprised of winning entries from their annual Chapbook Contest in which the writers had a unifying plot that connected each flash story, despite the fact that individual stories were self contained and complete. What I like best about this collection is that each author has written an essay that describes their process in composing a novella in a seri…

When Writing Your Novel Stalls

Committing to writing a novel is a tremendous joy and a tremendous burden. When you combine it with a full time job and at least three hours a day in the car driving to and from work, it makes for lots of stress. But the rewards are immense. The unraveling of thoughts and the re-weaving them into a coherent story people might want to read is a challenge but it makes me feel wonderfully creative and filled with purpose.

The past week has seen little movement toward more pages of "Safe Places," despite having enrolled in NaNoWriMo and needing to keep up with my daily word quota. But here is a weekend in which to play catch up. So on a sunny Saturday morning I am back at the computer looking at my chapter outlines and getting into chapter eight of writing my novel.

But first a little side trip.

On Wednesday night I held a book event at the Salvatore LaRussa Dance Studio in Middle Village. The event was largely attended by co-workers who came to support my literary efforts. I am…

National Novel Writing Month

So it's November, which means it's National Novel Writing Month. I'm a rebel according to the official website, since I am not starting a brand new novel this month but working at adding 50,000 words to an existing ms.

The challenge is simple, um hm, choke, choke, just write about 1667 words per day, which equals 6-7 pages. And by November 30 you have the first draft of a 50,000 word novel. I've signed up for this before and then dropped out. This time I'm going to do it. My goal was to have the first draft done by December 31 so if I can get 50,000 words by November 30 I'll be close to the end. As of today I have 20,052 words of the draft, plus two notebooks of scenes written in preparation to plug in wherever they will fit. I think I can do this!!

The obstacle is time and energy, meaning dragging myself home from work, and now it will be dark out by the time I do get home, and getting in a workout, dinner and a shower before knuckling down to write my requisi…

Plotting that Novel

In two days National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately called) will begin. The objective is to write 50,000 words of your novel's first draft in thirty days! Now that's what I call a challenge. I've attempted this before and chickened out at the last minute for a variety of reasons but this year I intend to stick to it and "win" by getting those 50,000 words written.

So how does that happen? Here's where a brief discussion of plot comes in.

There are two major categories of novelists--those who meticulously outline every scene and character (outliners) and those who begin with a vague idea and then just write by the seat of their pants (pantsers.) Of course there are a hundred variations and combinations of the two and each writer must decide for herself which system works best.

I have always been a pantser--just taking an idea from the universal ether and running with it. While this works for many writers, and has worked for me in th…

Writing a Novel Means Hard Work

I do admit that writing and preparing poems and short stories for a collection was hard work. It involves writing enough of each to actually make up a whole book. Then it involves revising each until it's as perfect as I can get it, which doesn't necessarily mean perfect-perfect. Then I needed to submit poems and short stories to journals because having a few already published heightens the attractiveness of a collection for editors. I liked writing short pieces and I lowered my standards, constantly telling myself that with a full time job I didn't have time or energy to write a whole novel, let alone revise it enough times to make it palatable to editors or agents, or even to myself or members of my critique group. So I gave up the idea.

But now I have come back to it. My dream, ambition, goal is to be a published novelist and so the hard work begins. I cannot use time or lack of energy as an excuse anymore. I have to knuckle down and do the work.

Over the past month I …

Writing and Reading Novels

So I haven't posted in several days but that's because I've head four and five day weekends and have been diving deep into my novel. Finally I have focus. I have stored away art books and supplies, cleaned up my writing desk and computer desk and put poetry aside for the time being.

Looking forward to National Novel Writing Month in November as well as my critique group's twice yearly retreat, I am pumped to get this first draft finished. I will do it this time, no matter what obstacles get in my way. Because they aren't true obstacles to writing a novel, just challenges to writing that test my commitment.

I have 43 pages so far and most of my important scenes sketched out. I have my characters down including images I found online that give me visuals. And not just character visuals but pictures of their homes too. I know my main character's goals and obstacles and the subplots of other characters. This is very exciting. Writing a novel is a journey I'm up …


I lie in bed as the dawn's silver light slips under the window blinds. I am between sleep and waking, that treasured cocoon that seems to give birth to myriad story ideas and character creations. Dragging myself out of bed I head to my writing desk and open my spiral notebook to a fresh page. That's when the voices begin to hum;
"you can't write a novel" "you don't know what you're doing" "you'll never get published, go back to sleep, don't waste your time" "look at that subplot, it sucks"
Then new voices slip in between;
"come on you can do it" "just keep your butt in the chair and the pen moving and you'll get it done" "don't quit" "four pages a day and you'll be done with a first draft in no time"
"who do you think you are calling yourself a writer"
I tell you it never ends. One minute on top of the world and the next in the bottom of the writing dumpster. How…

A Peek at a Novel in Progress

Meghan stared at her twin sister's pale and lifeless body through a haze of tears. Beneath the white hospital blanket Meredith's slim body was still, so unlike her usual exuberant and hyperactive personality. Had it only been six hours ago that Meghan had left left her sister alone on their sixteenth birthday? Had it only been this same evening that Meghan had chosen her friends over her family? What if she had stayed around? Would Meredith still be gone, or would Meghan have averted this successful attempt at suicide?

Meghan reached beneath the blanket and removed the silver ring from Meredith's hand. She slipped it onto her own ring finger along with her own matching ring. Meghan's parents had given her and Meredith identical rings, two slim silver bands twined together, for a sixteenth birthday present and to honor how alike the girls were.

I failed you, Meghan whispered to herself. I can't bring you back, but somehow I promise I will find a way to redeem my mista…


Wow! Here is is two weeks after I posted "Day One" and I haven't blogged since then. But I must tell you I am making progress on the novel. I gathered together what I have so far and done some revision. I brought a new chapter one to my critique group, "Tapestries" and incorporated some of their fantastic suggestions. I am now revising the prologue, to deepen it, and make it fit with this new draft.

I must say I am getting lots of help and motivation in writing this novel from Martha Alderson's book "The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts." The book assists in writing a novel by providing a daily dose of motivation, a hint about plot development and a specific plot prompt that gets your novel's draft moving along. Though most of my story is written and the ending is in my head, I find these prompts help me write my novel by keeping me on a daily writing regimen that helps me get to know my characters better, build backstory that I need to k…


Despite the fact that I began this novel in 2009 and have already written partial drafts of three different versions, I am beginning anew today. Writing a novel takes hard work, inspiration, time, a good plot, engaging characters and lots of surprises and twists. Without those ingredients in your novel writing stew it won't work.

So taking what I have from the latest iteration of this novel--which is 43 pages-- called "Safe Places" I am basically starting from scratch. And if writing a novel is like preparing a stew then before you cut up and blend the ingredients you have to get the ingredients.

I am following these steps in the first stage of writing this novel.

read the first chapter that was already written and revised it to make it stronger and have it make better sensewent online and found images of people to represent the characters in the book and added them to the character section of my novel writing workbookcreated a new story blueprint to solidify this version&#…

Evolution of a Novel

I admit I am one of the most scatter brained, distractible, and indecisive writer and artist in the world. One day scrapbooking, one day poetry and art journaling, next day short stories. But today will be different, and all the days ahead will be different as well.

First and foremost I am a novelist. My favorite thing to read is novels, not poetry or short stories. Within the fiction genre I prefer romantic suspense and thriller. I used to enjoy literary fiction but as I get older I need the fast pace and seat-of-my-pants reading experience I get from more commercial types of fiction. And as many writer, editors and agents admonish writers, you should write what you like to read because of cause you know and have integrated into your mind, the structure of that genre better than any other. 

Indeed while writing craft books are an immense help, nothing can replace learning how to write by reading the kinds of books you want to write. I've read all the Hero's and Heroine's jo…


Trying very hard today to make some creative decisions. So far over this four day weekend I have made art, created some art stamping and scrapbooking, written a few poems and mentally worked out plots for a novella or novel written in short stories. All that plus some plot planning for my memoir.

How do I learn to focus in one creative area so I can build a career for my retirement?

Yes writing is my passion and all forms of art are my loves. With only so much time in the day I need to learn more focus.

So a few ideas:
Create a writing routine and follow it.
Come up with page quotas for each day
Work out my one month, six month, and one year writing goals

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Renee is Writing Short

I like to write short, but not because I am 4'11" tall.
As a poet of course I love the intensity that appears in a few short lines of well chosen words and images. In fact haiku and its 3 line format and tanka with its 5 line format appeal to me quite nicely. All the poems I write tend to come out short and even when reading poems, now or as a child, I would pass by anything longer than two pages. I prefer the shorter forms as they tell such big stories and paint such huge pictures with only a few words.

Though I love to read novels, when I write I love the succinctness of short stories and flash fiction. Yes, I know that part of the reason is that with a full time job my available time to write is brief and the thought of delving into novel writing is a scary plunge. I can see it taking years to finally finish a novel length story and revise it to the point where it can be published. 

On the other hand, writing flash fiction of 1,000 words or less is quite attractive. Following…


Living the life of a writer can be both wonderful and frustrating, especially if most of your day is taken by a full time job. When you add to that, family, friends, and a slew of other hobbies finding time to write can be a marathon strength challenge. 

For me I wake at 4:15 in order to squeeze in twenty minutes of writing morning pages as per Julia Cameron's Artist's Way tools. It just three pages of rambling that occasionally results in a breakthrough for some indecision or a snag in a plot turn or poem idea. When I feel that morning pages are a waste of my precious time to write I will use those twenty minutes to create a new poem or two or perhaps outline a short story or map out a new chapter, depending on which of my many writing projects is occupying my mind at the moment.

Getting home by 5:00 or later, working out, showering, having dinner, reading a little and then falling into bed exhausted keep me from the writing desk.

But novels, memoir, short stories and poems do n…

poetry in lower case

when e.e.cummings arrived on the poetry scene he gifted us with poems that were written with few upper case letters and very little punctuation. we were in awe of his originality:

"there are so many tictoc clocks everywhere telling people what toctic time it is for tictic instance five toc minutes toc past six tic Spring is not regulated and does not get out of order nor do its hands a little jerking move over numbers slowly we do not wind it up it has no weights springs wheels inside of its slender self no indeed dear nothing of the kind. (So,when kiss Spring comes we’ll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss lips because tic clocks toc don’t make a toctic difference to kisskiss you and to kiss me)" e. e. cummingsand though Edward Estlin Cummings is no longer with us, his poems remain an enigma. it dawned on me the other day, as i wrote one of my own poems, how cummings' legacy of lower case lettered poetry has grown in modern the early centurie…


Next Sunday, July 20, 2014, I will be reading some poems from "I am My Mother's Only Poem" and perhaps one or two sneak previews of poems from my forthcoming collection "Ripe Peaches." I will also be signing and selling copies of "I am My Mother's Only Poem" and my short story collection "Looking through Windows." There will be two baskets raffled off and blank note cards with my art work on them will be for sale as well.

All this is being graciously hosted by Chris and Mark Tobin at Mattebella Vineyards in Southold on the Nort Fork of Long Island. I hope you will all come along and share a fun and inspiring afternoon surrounded by the vineyards, fig trees and Chris' magnificent flowers.The roses are lush, red and gorgeous.

In preparation I have designed business cards, book related postcards and out together packets of note cards tied with ribbon. I am also in process of choosing poems to read and creating some snippets of backgroun…


This has been an interesting week. I met the other night with a friend who clued me into a newsletter that announces poetry events on Long Island and in NYC. I never knew there was so much poetic energy right here where I live. I'll definitely have to seek these out and meet some more poets.

Today I am going to a poetry workshop and reading at Walt Whitman Birthplace in Huntington where I can network and get to know other local poets. So looking forward to it and to next weekend's book signing at Mattebella Vineyards in Southold.

Yesterday I was happy to have taken the day off. I typed up all the poems I have so far for my new collection, "Ripe Peaches." I know it will take some time to put this one together and I want to send it to small presses rather than self publishing so I have to keep up a steady flow of new poems. Today's workshop should generate a few. I have a class with Lorraine Mejia online and that is producing some new work too.

Melanie Faith is tea…


I have loved poetry since I was two years old and heard my first nursery rhyme while sitting on my mother's lap as she read from the pale green first volume of "My Book House Books" series.

I imagine I was even younger but memory slims as the years speed by. I know I was entranced by the musicality of rhythm and rhyme and the flow of descriptive and emotional words as my mother spoke them, and later as I recited them again and again from memory. It wasn't long after that when I picked up a lemon yellow number 2 pencil and began to scribble swirls, curves and straight lines across blank papers.

I came to love the sound of language and the look of words on the page as my scribbles slowly transmuted into letters, words, sentences and eventually poetic verses.

Once I was able to read by myself I discovered the treasures that sleep in the pages of books lined up back to back, exposing their titled spines to my hungry eyes. I read these rhymes over and over and then progre…

A change is gonna' come

I've been taking an online class on how to improve my author presence. For the past week I've played around a lot with my two blogs, weaving in and out and changing templates, design and layout elements, and adding new gadgets. This is all new and confusing to me and I am still trying to decide if it's better to let these blogs go, get a website that has a blog linked to it, and thereby feel more like a professional writer. I have two published books, several published stories, poems and essays, have done book signings and I'm working on two new books even as I write this.

So, a few decisions to make. In the meantime I played around with the blogs and now I'd love my readers' opinions on the changes I made to Renee is Writing. I need to add some pages to this blog but still working on that.


There are so many books out there for writers it can become quite confusing. There are craft books for every genre, guidebooks that literally tell you what to write in each chapter of a novel or each line of a poem, and then there are motivational and inspirational books that just keep you going when you lose momentum. Here is a list of some of my favorites.

Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
On Writing by Stephen King
Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg

Then there are three by Kelly Stone that help you create time to write, a schedule for writing, and goals to get you where you want to be. Highly recommend these three as well as any of her online classes.

Time to Write
Thinking Write
Living Write

And two by Heather Sellers
Page after Page
Chapter after Chapter

Go ahead, read them all and enjoy--then for heaven's sake go get writing!!!


On Sunday July 20th I will be selling and signing both my books at Mattebella Vineyards in Southold on the North Fork of Long Island. This is a special event and I am pleased to be having it at the Vineyard as my husband Frank and I go there often and have come to know the owners, Chris and Mark Tobin, well.
These two people are gracious hosts and the vineyard is a relaxing and wonderful place to go on a summer afternoon. The grounds are beautifully decorated with roses and other flowering plants. They have a quaint little tasting room and a glorious patio as well as picnic tables and two gazebos under which you can hide from the shade. They also grow their own fig trees.
The red wines are rich and bold with the perfect lilt of tannins and the whites are smooth and buttery. Tastings come with several snacks that enhance the flavors of the wines they are paired with. Chris makes her own fig jam which is sweet and tasty and her brownies are delish.
At the book signing I will raffle off two …



Proud to say my new book is out. "Looking through Windows" is a collection of short stories about women and children in dire situations who come out better and stronger in the end. These women have to make some tough decisions and in some cases are still in the process of deciding at the end of these brief stories.
I've posted before about attempting to write novels and memoirs, but as a poet I love the intensity of writing short and the feeling of accomplishment at finishing something in a few days as opposed to a few years. I also like the idea that I can "get away with" poetic prose, masses of metaphors, scintillating similies and visual imagery when writing flash fiction. One of the enduring comments I hear when my novels are being critiqued is that I use too many of these poetic devices, so now, in s…

Blog Tour -- David Kalish

Today we have a special visit from David Kalish, author of "The Opposite of Everything." He has graciously offered to share his journey in writing this very provocative, engaging and important novel. Once you learn about the trials and joys he experienced you will want to go out and get his book.

Thank you David and good luck with the sale of your book. I wish you many readers.

The Rocky Journey to My Novel             By David Kalish
The journey that led to my first novel began in 2000, shortly after I remarried. I was a reporter for The Associated Press about to be posted to Mexico City to cover international business news. It was a dream job: I’d long wanted to report from an exotic locale. Though I’d been diagnosed with thyroid cancer six years earlier, the disease was not then causing trouble and I felt at the top of my game. All set to go, I’d already sublet my apartment in Brooklyn, changed my health insurance from domestic to international, sold my car, and arranged to …

Mother's Day is Coming

Next Sunday is Mother's Day and here is a perfect gift. I wish so much my mother was still around to see my poetry collection and know that her daughter's dream has come true. I included in this collection poems about family and it opens and closes with poems about my mother. It was a joy to write, revise and order these poems and to create art work to go with them. I do love combining my poetry and art and I'm looking for other ways to continue this blend of my two passions.

It dawned on me how many of us bring our mothers flowers for Mother's Day and that these gifts were carry in our gentle hands, and offer with our hearts, fade and wilt in a few weeks. How about giving your Mom a gift that won't wilt. A gift she can open again and again. Because I am sure many of the sentiments I share in these poems about my Mom and about family are feelings you can relate to.

I hope, if you do give this gift to your Mom, that she understands the love with which you deliver i…


It's a peaceful Saturday afternoon and I am filling myself with writing. Memoir, poems and short stories swirl in my head racing to be the first to be placed on the pristine white pages of a notebook. Just thought I would share this little story with you. It just kind of emerged from the meditative corner of my brain.

From the age of four she dreamed of becoming a ballerina. A pair of pink satin toe shoes lured her, but they were so big she could fit both of her feet into one of them. She went to dance classes and hefted her foot to the barre and stretched her muscles till they cried in agony and cramped in her sleep. At night she sat on her bed and stretched her arms over head in an arc like a rainbow. She bent from side to side in a slow dance, her pale skin lit by the moon. She watched her shadow move gracefully to the music hat played in her head. Then went to sleep trying to remember her multiplication tables and the spelling words she was supposed to study for school. In class…

Nature Poem Challenge--Day 8

spring tears
soak the dead earth
flowers resurrected
from winter's sleep
birds sing joy

I'm enjoying this year's poetry challenge as I love nature and wish I could spend more time outdoors absorbing her gifts. Since I spend most of my days indoors in an office it's fun to spend some morning time crafting poems that sing Mother Nature's praises.

I do believe in synchronicity and as it turns out, the other day while clearing out some of my numerous books I came across "The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit: 52 Ways to Find Your Voice through Journal Writing" by Janell Moon. I took this as a sign that I should finally open the book and follow some of the exercises. I chose a blank journal with pictures of flowers and strawberries on it that was just waiting in my writing room for something special to be scribed inside it.

Now I have the perfect play area to manipulate words and ideas and write poems for this challenge and to give voice to my soul. I love how eve…

Nature Poem Challenge--Day 7

clouds like a rippled river
I am underwater
searching the waves
for a sign
~~of peace
~~of tranquility

the only things I find
as if these clouds
rippling over my head
could drown me

Day 6--Nature Poems Challenge

blue heron wades in fits and starts probing for lost dreams-- guileless peace glistens in her folded wings

Day 5 -Nature Poems Challenge

gentle pond
ripples with discarded dreams
holds the trees and sky
like a million poems
that will never be read

Day 4 -Nature Poems Challenge

rust spotted maple leaf predicts death like the age spots on the back of my hand yet the future is lit by a crescent moon dreams swaying on a hammock of hope 

Day 3- Nature Poems Challenge

the bare branched maple
a monument to death
sap begins to run
under the sun's embrace

bodies, life
yours, mine
inevitable change

Day 2--Nature Poems Challenge

black earth swells with April rain, pale blades pierce the surface.
leaves, caressed by the heat of the sun's tongue, cradle crocus buds
in their slender arms

ice melts
hearts thaw
peace blooms

National Poetry Month 2014

I love the month of April. Tiny green sprouts are emerging from dark brown soil. Even on the coldest mornings you can feel the slight shift in the sun's heat rays. And the birds are beginning to chirp matins for early risers like me. Most of all it is National Poetry Month. Each year I set myself a poetry challenge to write a poem a day based on a particular form or topic. This year's poems will be about nature.

One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver who literally finds a world in a grain of sand, or stalk of wheat, or the calm eyes of a deer. The nature pictures she paints with her words are amazing. It is that description of nature, and its metaphor for universal life forces, that I hope to emulate with my poems this month. Since the hawk is one of my favorites of Mother Nature's children this is where I shall begin.

The infant hawk lifts her wings for the first time. The sun catches the fragile white down on her chest and it glints like silver against the deep-sea blue …

Be Brave

I just bought this doll, Princess Merida, from the Disney movie Brave and put her on my writing desk to remind me to be brave and go for the gusto. I am a "play it safe" kind of gal and I need to take more risks. It means writing more and submitting more of my work. It means being brave enough to announce to the world that I believe I have finally found my passion and my desire in writing. I've written in too many genres. But now that I have a poetry collection published and being purchased from poetry readers from, I know that I must focus on writing poetry. I am presently working on a new collection and will send out individual poems as they are completed. I am also going to start a poem a day challenge for National Poetry Month in April. I only have a few days left to decide what my topic and/or form will be. But I will be brave and choose something. I know I can do this. I am looking forward to completing and publishing a second book or chapbook of poems…