Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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 a prompt, or some idea that plants itself in my head, can garner me a first draft in a half hour or so. After that I can type it out, print it and let it steep for a couple days. In the meantime I can move ahead to new first drafts.

Once the steeping process is complete I will go over the draft with a red pen, moving things around, weeding out unnecessary words, smoothing out metaphors and dumping adverbs and extraneous adjectives. I might take out or add whole sentences to make the story more understandable and emotional.

Then onto the final revisions where the story takes on a polished shape. In a week I could have 4 or 5 completed flash stories to send out or add to other stories to make a chapbook. 

This quick unwinding of stories and characters and the short turnover time makes this a more doable process that gives me stories that can be sent out and hopefully published.

I already have a few ideas for flash stories that are connected and may one day produce a novel but for now I am sticking to chapbook groups of short tales.

This makes sense to me and I look forward to sharing some of them with you here.

For any writer in search of some prompts for short stories look at Roberta Allen's book "Flash Fiction"

Go ahead, give it a try and happy scribing!

Monday, August 25, 2014


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 not get written if I don't get to my writing space. And paintings, art journals and mixed media art do not get created if I don't get there either. I use this desk for both writing and art so it might be graced with a binder and a spiral notebook  while writing a new short story, or might be graced with an art journal, jars of craft paint, brushed, pens, and patterned paper when working on an art project. I never know and sometimes even am surprised at what I find when I get there in the morning.

Planning is crucial. I need to know on my way home from work what I will be writing or painting when I get home so I can muster the energy to get to the desk, no matter how tired I am. And I know I can do it. There are many blank pages and clear canvases awaiting the creative ideas that ricochet in my brain on an hourly basis.

My mind is a scary place, but for me it works. 

And so onward toward home and straight to the desk. Let's see what awaits.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

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. cummings

and 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 day.

in the early centuries, when most if not all poems, were written in heavily structured form, all sentences and proper names were capitalized and all complete sentences ended in a period. thoughts were stretched out and explained. verse after verse told a story from beginning to end and nothing was abbreviated. today it seems things are a bit different

with most poems being written in free verse there is less attention paid to "telling it all" and many poets express big thoughts in brief verses. look at forms like haiku and tanka which can explain intense emotional and philosophical ideas in three for five lines using no punctuation, no articles or conjunctions and few if any adjectives

the flow of lines down the page draw the reader in a smooth expansion of thought, never needing to worry about end stops or pauses, as the enjambed lines flow down the page the reader is carried along as if on a softly flowing stream, adrift on a raft of imagery and emotion

but i want to point out that in no way is poetry a lowercase form of writing, submissive and subordinate to thriller novels, chick lit, or flash fiction. poetry feeds the soul, at least it feeds mine, and i will continue writing it--with a combination of lower and upper case letters as needed and a limited but appropriate amount of punctuation

as i write and order poems for a new collection i am weeding out those that don't sing to me and creating new ones to fill in the gaps. here's a sample poem from the upcoming collection "Ripe Peaches"


Threads of imagination
become real
in the gossamer breath
of an unfound voice.

In this dawn
blue as an endless river
I weave unlived stories
in strands of silver truth.