Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Synchronicity for Writers

Synchronicity comes in a variety of packages and at myriad times if only we are open to hear those whispered voices. For writers and other creatives synchronous events and unexpected connections are the gifts we need to keep going when challenges or deadlines get too much for us. Recently certain connections have made it possible for me to get back into writing mode and set art journaling aside. Oh I'm not giving up art journaling but I'm definitely curtailing it to two or three times a week. Writing every day is more crucial if I'm to meet my goals. So here are the happenings that lead me to focus more.

Firstly I heard about a woman in the Temecula Valley Woman's Club who has written and published three novels and I am meeting with her on Friday. The value of a partner in this writing life is crucial and since we moved from New York to California I am missing my writing group of amazing women.

Last night we attended the monthly meeting of the Temecula Valley Art League and I happened to be talking with a woman about possible places I could find a writing group. A few minutes later, during an acrylic painting demo that was truly remarkable, she tapped me on the shoulder and introduced me to a man who belongs to a critique group. At first I feared it was the local library group that turned out not to be very welcoming but no, it's a different group. I will try it out to see how it fits.

Yesterday I discovered that one of my favorite online teachers, Melanie Faith, is offering a novel outlining class in September. Part of me wants it to be sooner so I can get my novel set up to write. But it actually works out fine. I enrolled in the class and I know it will be coming up but in the meantime I will take these few months to finish my two current writing projects.

The first is a chapbook of haibun and tanka prose that I am writing for a contest in August. I have three online poetry classes over the months of May and June and that should result in enough poems for the chapbook and give me the month of July to revise and properly order the poems.

The second is a chapbook of connected flash stories that I've been nurturing for a while now. I'm using my present online class in Writing Short with Len Leatherwood to write and get some critique on a few of the stories. And this project, called "Thursdays at Seven," has just given rise to an ongoing writing project I am heartily looking forward to.

I want to take the main character of these stories and expand it into a novel. The chapbook project will give me time and space to develop her character and her problems and find a direction for the novel. Though the chapbook and the novel will be able to stand alone, the novel will be a direct spinoff from the stories in the chapbook. From there I would like to take three other characters and create novels with them as the protagonists. It will be a romance series with a setting in the vineyards of the North Fork of Long Island. Again, writing these flash stories will give me a chance to build these characters and there stories. A way to get to know where I can go with bigger stories about each one.

Everything seems to have aligned this week to put me in writing mode and I can't ignore the signals. The colorful paint will have to be brushed aside and replaced with my blue, purple and red pens, and yellow highlighters. The canvases and art journals will be replaced by spiral notebooks and moleskine journals as well as my computer and printer.

The writing life awaits at the tip of my pen and I am ready for it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Is Poetry Dead? Please say it isn't so!

At least once a month my husband and I spend a morning in Barnes and Noble sipping coffee and exploring. He will browse art magazines and cookbooks while I explore books based on my current topic of interest.

On Sunday we spent just such a morning. When we got to Barnes and Noble soft music was playing, just right for reading, but it soon morphed into something more popular and downright annoying. I want classical or smooth jazz and preferably instrumental when I'm reading. I would also prefer the absence of other people's conversations but it is a public place after all and I have to adjust.

At various times my focus has been art magazines and books, literary journals, self-help books, inspirational musings or sometimes health and cookbooks. I always spend some time among the shelves of fiction looking for a new author or one of my favorite author's latest release to add to my ever growing pile of fiction. Sometimes my focus is on writing and that may include novels, memoir, short stories or poetry. This particular visit was focused on poetry.

There were new books by Marie Howe, Billy Collins and Philip Levine to look at. I was also browsing for new poets to get to know and maybe even find a book about writing poetry but alas poetry has been relegated to a small space.

April is National Poetry Month but apparently Barnes and Noble did not get that memo. It was not advertised and none of the new poetry collections were highlighted. In fact the poetry section of this particular store is hidden in a back corner behind children's toys. It is not part of the literature section as it is in other branches of B and N. And it is small and wanting. There are few if any collections by the likes of David Whyte, Marie Howe, Sharon Olds or other well known poets of our times. And the books that are there are out of order though the little metal label on the shelf says "in alphabetical order." I managed to find two of the books I wanted--"My Lost Poets" by Philip Levine and "The Rain in Portugal" by Billy Collins but I was frustrated and annoyed at the slim pickings offered.

It occurred to me though that perhaps poetry is dead. Well it surely isn't for me or for the other new poets out there squeezing poems from their veins and trying to get published and known. But it's reign seems somewhat diminished and that disturbs me.

How can we raise poetry to the level it should be? How can we advertise and increase its importance?

There are poems of love and protest, grief and longing, birth and death. Each line of poetry written not only displays the poet with her heart and soul wide open but helps her heal, helps her have a voice, helps her reach out and touch other human life forms. We need to send this message out to young people, students and teachers, seniors and scholars.

Bring poetry back to the classroom but make it real not a chore. Study the newer poets and the accessible poets. Billy Collins and Philip Levine who write of everyday man and his struggle for life worth living. David Whyte and Mark Nepo who touch the soul with words that open you up to the world. Mary Oliver who will show you all the life there is on this earth and teach you to notice it, be astonished by it and respect it.

The world needs poetry now more than ever. Pull it out of the darkness, out of the corner of the store behind the bright colored toys and for heaven's sake, if you are a book store, at least give a little sign that you are aware it is National Poetry Month.