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Showing posts from 2018

Poems for Mother's Day

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Every once in a while I go back to my first poetry collection. I re-read the poems and peruse the art work. With a title like, "I am My Mother's Only Poem" I think this is a fitting gift for any mom.

Here are some samples of what you can find between the covers.

mourning doves
perch in pairs
never alone ~
your voice in my ear
constant and new

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autumn ballroom
frost painted
bare feet sashay and slide
expose my soul~
for you to know
like your own hand

Ideas are like Rabbits

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The question writers get asked the most often is, "where do you get your ideas?" For poets, short story writers, and novelists who write a book a year or several series a year the need for ideas is a constant. How do they have ideas for so many stories or poems?

For me, ideas are like rabbits.

They multiply at a rapid rate. And in the same way that rabbits create more rabbits, ideas create more ideas and the more I have the more I get.
Craft books are profuse with ways to get story ideas:
BrainstormRead newspapersObserve people in the cafePlay the "what if" gameEavesdrop on conversations
Each of those methods is helpful and can elicit an array of story or character ideas for your writing. I have on occasion used a few myself. Mostly, however, I don't search for ideas, they find me. And just like those fertile little bunnies, ideas increase exponentially. They float in thin air and crawl inside my ear. They arise from some cells deep within me and gnaw at my brain un…

The Sacrifices of Writing

Like the lamb brought to slaughter there are many sacrifices a writer must make in the name of his passion. Many books on writing as well as those on success discuss this little issue that we either don't acknowledge, or take for granted.

Several years ago I spent my long commute too and from work listening to the audio book "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. There is a world of experience, knowledge and advice in this book as well as in Canfield's online and in-person courses but this one point regarding sacrifice stood out to me then. It comes back to haunt me now, in even bigger ways.

To paraphrase, Canfield says that if you want to succeed at something you must be willing to give up all the other things in your life that interfere with achieving that success. At the time I used work as an excuse for everything. And as I drove along the Northern State Parkway, part of that long serpentine, barely moving, snake of cars, I thought about how many pages of a nov…

Chasing a Dream

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In order to write a novel--meaning a first draft, several revisions, a final edit and then writing a synopsis and query to submit to agents and publishers--I need to stop chasing all the shiny new objects that parade through my mind.

While I have had this novel mapped out several times and gotten 130 pages of a first draft written, it still isn't finished. I refuse to admit how many years ago I began writing it, or how many iterations it's gone through. And I blame my own resistance to the hard work as well as the lure of those shiny temptations.

Shiny objects appear in the form of poetry collections to edit and submit, short stories, blog posts, a chapbook of short stories written specifically for a contest, which by the way I did not even place in. They also appear in the form of art journaling and other art forms I like to play around in. But I can't keep chasing these shiny objects and still expect to complete a novel, and then go on to write more novels.

But I am coming …

A Bit of Writing Prompt Fantasy

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I don't typically write fantasy or surrealist fiction but several years ago I took a writing class and one of the daily prompts produced this little story. Not something I would have devised on my own, but apparently it was in my head someplace because it emerged easily onto the page.



MAGIC POTION LOTION
Knee high by the Fourth of July. That’s how many strands of red licorice I had collected for my patriotic installation at the campus art gallery. Now I needed materials in blue and white and they had to come by the color naturally, I wasn’t allowed to paint anything and I only had two hours left to finish the piece in time. I ran down the hall of the dorm pounding on doors. “Wake up! Get to the lounge! I need help!” “What do you want now?” It was five o’clock in the morning but my dorm mates were used to my ill-timed bursts of creative energy. They dragged themselves down to the lounge. I looked at the sleepy hung-over congregation of students and begged. “Please, I need all your aspir…

Writing with Passion

I believe that writing fiction based on what I am passionate about makes my writing stronger. When there is a fire in your soul and you write it into a story you not only express your feelings but you present an issue to your readers that resonates. I grew up in a family where there were always young children around, I raised two sons, and I had a thirty year career in early childhood education. I am passionate about the care, safety and education of young children and this is one of the stories that emerged from this passion.


SAVIOR
There it was again. The brittle wail of a baby crying. It could have been the two neighborhood stray cats fighting. It was hard to tell the difference. I got out of bed to check. A window lit up in the house next door though it was three in the morning. A voice called out, “Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about!” Could Sue be yelling at her two year old son? Every night for two weeks I’d heard the crying and shouting and wondered what this child c…

Reading and Writing for Success

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Not all readers desire to write, but all writers must read. Books in their genre, as well as fiction in other genres, creative nonfiction and poetry. Reading in the genre you write in is of course primary as that is how we learn what works and what doesn't work, where the trends are and which trends are being abandoned for something newer, more exciting, perhaps darker and more mysterious.


Reading in our chosen genre, which for me is romantic women's fiction and romantic suspense, helps to integrate the narrative and plot structures expected in these novels. It exposes us to new writers that we can connect with on social media and hopefully run into at writers' conferences and book signing events.

Reading outside of our genres helps enhance our skills in using language in creative and engaging ways. Poetry opens us to imaginative language as well as specificity and concision.

Presently I am reading and re-reading the Ten Poems series by Roger Housden. The poems inform my writ…

Good Writing/Bad Writing

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It was a brisk winter afternoon in Manhattan and my husband and I were spending it exploring the Museum of Modern Art, better known to Big Apple residents as MoMA. The exhibits were as diverse as the pale snowflakes falling outside and as mysterious and intriguing as the latest Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb suspense novel. Some unique exhibits even rivaled the likes of a Stephen King horror story. 

In one exhibit hall a young couple intensely stared at a huge canvas and were in deep discussion about it. I watched in fascination, wondering what the interest was in a square canvas painted all red. I just couldn't see the need to discuss, except perhaps which shade of crimson, scarlet, or burgundy the artist had used.

Now what, you might ask, does this have to do with writing. Honestly at the time I couldn't have told you. But today, several years later, it occured to me while reading the book "Fearless Writing" by William Kenower. In this book, which by the way is a juicy tidb…

The Artsy Poetessa

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I believe I was born a poet. I've been writing poems since I was able to hold a pencil and form letters. I fell in love with poetry hearing and reading nursery rhymes. My mother had a set of children's books, a thirteen volume compendium of leather covered books in shades of blue and green. I continued to read the Nursery Rhyme volume long beyond the age when I was reading chapter books and more. That was the birth of this poet. As a child I loved art also but lost that creative niche many years later. Now, in my older age I have rediscovered the pleasures of filling a page with color and shape. Of using crayons, pencils, pens, paint and many other mediums to make art. I have combined my loves of art and poetry more and more and here is a sample, honoring my declaration of becoming the Artsy Poetessa.



THE  POETESS
She sits on a soft chair of pink and green chintz in the corner of the room. Her legs curl beneath her long blue flowered dress. Her long blonde hair flows over her ri…

Writing "Looking through Windows"

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Birthing a short story collection is a challenging yet exciting endeavor. I had written many short stories, a few of them published in literary journals, and I wanted to compile them into a book. A place readers could go to read all the short stories I was so proud of. And so I began the gestation of "Looking through Windows."

The first step was to gather the stories I wanted to include in the collection. Then, despite some of them having been published. I had to read and revise them all. I had to be sure each word and each scene was perfect. Well, perfect at least in my writer's mind. Then there was the task of putting the stories in the right order. Finally I had a manuscript I could submit. I got some help designing the cover and formatting the book. Then I sought fellow writers as well as former writing teachers to write blurbs for the back cover. Each step a stone in this marvelous process of birthing a book.



https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Through-Windows-Howard-Cass…

Driving Backwards

DRIVING BACKWARDS LESSONS LEARNED IN A ‘63 CHEVY
I was sixteen years old and held a long coveted driver’s permit in my wallet. My fingers trembled as they adjusted the rear view and side view mirrors on my father’s 1963 Chevy Impala, it’s turquoise blue paint job sparkling in the sunshine of an autumn Saturday afternoon. “Start the engine,” Daddy said. I twisted the key in the ignition and the car shuddered into life. I pulled away from the curb using the proper hand signals and set off for a practice drive. At the corner I slowed for a stop sign and heard the familiar admonition from Daddy, “It says STOP, not SLOW DOWN.” But he said it good naturedly and with the hint of a chuckle. It amazed me how patient and happy he was, despite the fact that he probably hated teaching his children to drive more than anything else. He was a truck driver, and he much preferred being behind the wheel and having control of the car. Any time we went anywhere with members of the family, he insisted on doin…

Life Book Project 2018

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One month of the year is gone already, but I feel a bit accomplished for a change. Usually by now I have successfully abandoned my goals and dreams before the first of February. One of my goals for 2018 was to sign up for the Life Book Project. This is a year long series of weekly art and self development lessons presented by Tamara LaPorte. You can find information at her website www.willowing.org

Tam is a wonderful teacher and a compassionate supporter of artists and guide in self-compassionate growth. Her lessons are detailed with explanations that make it easy for an immature artist like me to follow. She has also gathered a cadre of art teachers who also present lessons in Life Book 2018. Here is my first wobbly attempt at the first lesson.

It was a challenge but I have given myself the task of pushing my artistic boundaries this year. My drawings are childish and my painting is unpolished, but for me it's about learning about the fun of the process. I know there will be classe…

A Perfect Day for Imperfect Poetry

I’m still trying, and failing, to adapt to this new climate. Still trying to acclimate to eighty degree temperatures in January. Southern California is so unlike Long Island where I made my home for sixty-seven years. But since I tend to be an optimist I see the value of being able to take a pleasant morning walk in the middle of “winter.”
This early in the morning the air is cool on my skin and the sunshine is bright and joyful. I’ve become more committed to my daily walks since I got a Fit Bit that tracks my every step and buzzes my wrist when I don’t hit my goals. But what has made my morning walks more enticing and enjoyable is my new interest in audio books. In the past I would walk silently and though I enjoyed the rustle of dry leaves and the songs of finches somehow those walks seemed boring. I would set out to resolve some life issue, or plot issue, and end up thinking mundane thoughts. Now, instead, I listen to inspirational books and poetry read by David Whyte or Mark Nepo. …

Mama's Rings

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Sometimes a writing prompt can be found right on your own hand and spiced with memories.


MAMA’S RINGS
            Mama and I sat in the VA hospital waiting room waiting for the doctor. The previous night Mama had a bout of high blood pressure with its typical headache and shortness of breath. She had gotten it down with her medication but it was time to get checked out.             Normally the wait to be seen by a medical professional at the VA was long so we had each brought a book to read but the books lay at our sides and we talked instead.             “Is there anything you want before I get rid of it?” Mama asked. She had always been a minimalist but in her late 80s she was even more determined to unload her possessions as she didn’t want to burden my brother and I with having to deal with them when she was gone. It was a sad conversation but she’d been preparing us for our parents’ deaths since I was in high school so I had become a bit inured to the topic.             “Not really,”…

Training Wheels for Writers

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We each remember the day we learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels. It was a feeling of triumph not to be believed. Finally we could venture out into the unknown on our trusted steads and see the world. 

The magic thrilled us though in the beginning it was scary to try and balance on only two wheels while steering around corners and speeding down hills. Writing is like that and so is life. 

When you write you may need training wheels in the form of craft books and magazines, a community of writers to hold you while you learn to balance, a list of prompts to get you started and perhaps some rituals and routines to ensure a daily writing habit.

Life requires training wheels as well. Some guidance to help navigate the chaotic world while keeping a balance in your daily life. Training wheels offered me a prompt for writing as I remembered back to the day I first rode my bike without training wheels.


TRAINING WHEELS
            Summer evenings stretch out like magical hours when yo…

Enter Writing

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I wake before dawn, the air cool and charcoal dark. Dreams are a quickly evaporating haze and I am surrounded by stillness. Just the way I like my days to begin. I rise and head to my writing desk with a glass of warm water, lemon juice and honey. A few sips. I light two candles; one coconut vanilla, the other a pink salt candle holder. I set the timer on my iphone for ten minutes, cradle a pink quartz crystal in the palm of my hand and meditate in the stillness of a new day holding new promises like delicate blooms in a reed basket. Soft chimes on the timer signal it is time to get to work.



I enter my writing zone trying not to predetermine what I'm going to write about. Words flow from the pen, seemingly along a direct trail from heart to hand. It might be a poem, or a childhood reminiscence. It could be a list of things I need to do, or a list of writing and art projects I want to start on. Sometimes it's a musing on the present state of affairs in my heart, my life or in th…