Sestina, Little Thumbelina

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Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon 

 I can’t believe what I am about to say, but I guess stranger things have been known to happen.  The poetry I have been writing  has been more fun then I ever expected. Telling a story using elliptical language is a challenge and thought provoking trying to make all the elements fit together. 

Who would have ever thought I’d find prose and poetry enjoyable? It was my greatest fear in taking a creative writing course. However,  I have come to enjoy the stimulation of the mind and the creativity that it demands.   

Our teacher said, “You will be glad we started the course with poetry.” I didn’t believe it. I thought to myself, “Let’s just take the poison first, and get it done and over with.”  She said not a word about things like sestina, haiku or pantoum, probably fearing she’d scare the bejesus out of the entire class, before we even got started. 

This weekend’s assignment was to work on a sestina. I couldn’t have defined it until now. Here is the definition of this form of writing. “a lyrical fixed form consisting of six 6-line usually unrhymed stanzas in which the end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the following five stanzas in a successively rotating order and as the middle and end words of the three verses of the concluding tercet.” 

I can hear you now “Huh? I don’t get it. What is a tercet?” That’s your assignment. I’m too busy working on mine to explain it. 

 I’ll admit, when you know what you want to say but can’t put your fingers on just the right word to add engaging “sounds, color and flavor” to the composition, it’s frustrating. But I like dancing with words; it’s fulfilling to write when you get all jazzed up and arrange a piece you are satisfied with. I guess that is what poetry it is about; the art of putting a spin on words to make the reader do a ballet with the text.

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Obsessed and Over taken

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If you judge a poet, you have no time to write prose.”                                     ~Sue Batton Leonard

 Let’s start with something fresh today and talk about something different. It’s time to air my dirty laundry.

Last week in my creative writing class we were given an assignment to make a list of all of our obsessions. “Choose one, ” the professor said “and write about it; either in poem or prose form.”

My teacher has not yet seen my poem, so it is making it’s debut on this site – rough draft, unpolished. As you read my composition, remember, this is only my third attempt at writing poetry, ever!  Yes, ever. It is not really my forte.

Obsessed and Overtaken 

Concept, idiom, jargon

Articulation

Penning, scrawling, sketching

Communication 

Nouns, Verbs, Tenses

Alliteration 

Overused, Unclear, Redundant

Elimination 

Capitalize, comma, period

Abbreviation 

Emotional, verbal, mental

Abstraction 

Drafting, Editing, Rewriting

Direction 

Creating, planning, posting

Position 

Video, polls, images

Suggestion 

Digital, social, visual

Connection 

 Come on back, if you can bare to. Perhaps better blog writing tomorrow.

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I Remember the Bad Moment

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 “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  ~ Mother Teresa 

Well, I am cheating a little bit but, I have come up with my own version of Mother Teresa’s adage, as it relates to the literary world. “If you judge a poet, you have no time to produce prose.” How’s that? Needs improvement, you say? Alright, I’ll work on it. 

If you have been following this blog, you’ll know that I started a creative writing course a week or so ago and my biggest fear was writing poetry. Wouldn’t you know it – that is where we have started. On the first day of class when the teacher announced it, I thought “what am I going to do now? Withdraw from this course?” 

“Oh, well,” I thought, “I may as well conquer those fears from the offset.” 

Guess, what, my teacher is a Mother Teresa – kind, not too harshly judgemental and very helpful. She said my stuff was not bad, for a beginner. I have never seriously written poetry before but I’ve learned a lot about the art of writing poetry in just a few classes . I am thinking about words and how to put them together in all new ways. My teacher said “Each word to a poet, counts in the overall effect of the composition.”

The first piece I wrote is called I Remember. I will share it with you in due course. Briefly, it is about moving to a place, sight unseen. 

I am currently working on my 2nd poem, using the writing prompt The Bad Moment. I hope it won’t come when  the teach tells me “She was just kidding, that she didn’t mean what she said. She made a mistake. My writing is not as good as she initially thought.” 

If that happens,  that’s ok, I am a student. I’m taking the class to learn from it. I’ll fulfill my duty, do something about it and learn to write better. Won’t I? 

Before I end this blog writing, I just wanted to tell you, the September/October of Poets and Writers Magazine is the MFA issue. If you are interested in pursuing a writing program, check out P&W, it is filled information on fulltime programs, low-residency programs and writer’s conferences. Here is the link   www.pw.org 

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Local Authors in the Limelight

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If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” ~ Edward Hopper

Saturday was a day of great fun for me as a person who works in the independent publishing industry. The literary community of Steamboat Springs, Colorado came  out from behind their computers and into the limelight at the Written Arts Festival. I am aware of the fact that we do, indeed, have a growing population of independent publishers in this community. Nearly thirty were gathered; some having just published their debut novels, while others have more than one book published.

Panel discussions added interest to the event. “How should history be portrayed in writing?” was a subject that drew differing opinions from the authors. In the opinions of some, there is an obligation to write stories true to history; while others contend that history can be written from different perspectives.

Other authors specialize in fiction writing. The panelists in this genre seemed to agree that authors draw, to a certain extent, from personal experience and background which often gives them the basis of the story. Then the storyline “is pushed in different directions,” sometimes ending in a total surprise, even for the author. One panelist mentioned how her deeply felt spiritual beliefs influences her writing and a prolific romance writer admitted that individuals she encounters inspires her characters.

Sites, smells and visual landscapes also influence writing. A third group of panelists discussed how stories are crafted from experience in travel as well as from their rootedness in community. Place plays great significance in our identity as people and as writers. Local issues are often brought into books of regional interest.

The event culminated with an interview of a very talented poet and the Home Ranch owner, Ann Anderson Stranahan. Words, when used with the right cadence and meter makes music, she said. When Stranahan was asked  if “her poetic images come to her in black and white or in color?”

“Vividly and suddenly, perhaps as in a photographic image, rather than an oil or watercolor,” was her answer.

The Bud Werner Memorial Library http://www.steamboatlibrary.org/ and the efforts of their staff made this inspiring event possible. Also, the support of the Steamboat Arts Council http://steamboatspringsarts.com/and Off the Beaten Path Bookstore’s  http://www.steamboatbooks.com/ handling of the bookselling allowed the authors to visit with potential book buyers and answer questions.

I would have liked to have mentioned each of the authors individually, in this blog writing, but there were too many. I did get around the room to talk to each of them briefly. Thanks to all who participated and coordinated the Written Arts Festival. It was encouraging for anyone who is contemplating writing and publishing a story.

This blog brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, author of Gift of a Lifetime:Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

Do the Thing that you Fear the Most

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You’ve heard them all – time and time again….”Do the thing that makes you most uncomfortable, do the thing that bothers you the most, step out of the box for self-growth, do the thing that you most don’t want to do.” 

Well, I just did it. I signed up for a course in creative writing . It is something I’ve kind of, sort of, wanted to do but kept backing away from it. No more procrastination or excuses, this time I am going to tackle it! 

Over the past few years, I have stepped out of the box a lot, only to find self-satisfaction in my accomplishments. I’ve learned to read out loud to a writers group in voice that is not my own (or is it?), I started blogging and have written 900+ postings (only to find out that I have lots of readers and I love writing it), I am getting comfortable with public speaking (which I used to shy away from). With each one of these things, opportunities have come my way that I would not have otherwise had if I hadn’t done the thing I feared the most.

  So, rather than think “How much worse can it get?” I am approaching this writing course with the attitude of how much better can it get?” 

All set now, I have talked myself into seeking personal fulfillment in  the creative writing process. It is the next right thing to do.

You know what scares me the most? It’s not the teacher; it’s being asked to write poetry. On second thought, I’ll bet that requirement is in Creative Writing 2. I will escape it. Dear God, please have my back on that one….. I am shaking.

Note: This pillow can be ordered through www.casaandco.etsy.com.

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Collaboration Strengthens the Indies

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Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean. ~ Ryunosuke Satoro 

Independent publishers in Steamboat and the surrounding Routt County have good reason to celebrate this month. Our meet-up group, SHe Writes Steamboat has grown to include 29 members. We are fulfilling networking opportunity for independent publishers and fostering independent publishing success. Some members are first time publishers, others have several titles under their belt and many are working on new books. The group has been in existence since June 2011. 

Last weekend we made a collaborative appearance at Holiday in the Rockies. This event was organized by the Steamboat Art Council. http://bit.ly/uJFXs7.   SHe Writes Steamboat is also pleased to announce that our individual member’s publications are being considered by book clubs affiliated with the Bud Werner Library for reading in 2012. 

If you are an independent publisher, male or female, in Routt County or in the surrounding counties looking for a meet-up group of this type, we invite you to join us at our monthly meetings. We meet every third Tuesday of the month from 4pm to 5:30pm. For more information on the group and where we meet, go to the SHe Writes Steamboat Facebook page and send us a message you would like to be included in this group. Here is the link http://on.fb.me/oOWKWm. You can also contact me, Sue Leonard of Cornerstone Fulfillment Service, LLC, through SheWritesSteamboat@gmail.com

We look forward to learning more about you as an author, independent publisher and as a contributing member of this collaborative group!

It is a Beautiful Thing!

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A child is an uncut diamond.” ~ Austin O’Malley from Keystones of Thought 

Don’t you just love it when you encounter a child who is filled with  excitement and passion for their world and they open up and invite you in to come along for the ride? That is exactly what happened to me on Thursday, as I sat down to meet with a third grader named Simone. 

Introduced to Simone’s mom, some time ago, she mentioned her daughter’s love of writing. She asked if I would be willing to get together with her and her daughter, to discuss the possibilities of independently publishing her child’s work. Finally we had a chance to meet and talk.   

Simone, smiling and proud, immediately placed one of her stories in front of me to read. As I perused the page, I went on a trip that if we hadn’t spoken another word, I knew what this little girl was all about. You could tell by the flow of the story and by her ebullient descriptions, this child is alive with a fun spirit and gushing with life. 

My thoughts were confirmed, as Simone began to speak. Her sparkling personality shined through. As she described her passion for writing, it was indeed reflected in the tale itself. 

As we departed, I said to Simone’s mother “Do all you can to keep that fire alive inside of your child. Let’s work together to see what we can do to work toward fulfilling her dreams.” I know first hand how rewarding it is to parent a child who has that kind of zest for life. It is a beautiful thing. 

I wish every child on this earth could find a teacher, a mentor, a parent or friend who could help them discover and nurture what moves them, what inspires them and makes them tick. 

If Simone follows her heart, there will be all kinds of good things springing forth from this child. I’ll bet she will want to share it with her readers, too. 

Keep on writing and reading, Simone. I enjoyed meeting you!

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Butterflies at Art Award Night in Vermont

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A novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart. ~ Julia AlvarezIn the Time of the Butterflies 

Tonight, November 4th,  the Vermont Arts Council http://bit.ly/7Ncf6e  will have their annual awards honoring three outstanding artists. All three are working in their fields to share their talents through their poetry, books and musical compositions. 

Christian Wolff will be receiving the Walter Cerf Award for Outstanding Achievement in the performing arts.  He has recorded over 20 solo CDs and his book Cues, is a collection of his writings on music. For more information on his musical compositions and his life, please visit  http://bit.ly/cJGbcs

Julia Alvarez is the writer-in-residence at MiddleburyCollege. She has 5 published novels, a book of essays and many books for young readers. Several of her books have been adapted for film and theatre and are available in many languages and in many countries around the world.  An organic farm-literacy arts center in her homeland of the Dominican Republic holds a special place in her heart, and she shares of herself there, too. For more information on this author and her new book which will be available in the spring of 2012, please visit  http://bit.ly/9WSMSJ

Sydney Lea is a poet and prose writer often writing on subjects such as ecology and the natural environment. He has two books of essays, a published novel and has just been named Poet Laureate of Vermont. He makes his home in Newbury, Vermont. To read more about this multi-lingual professor of literature, please go to  http://bit.ly/ofelnu

Every year I look forward in great anticipation to receiving my Vermont Arts Gala invitation, whether I am able to attend or not. It is fulfilling to learn about the artists who are being celebrated for their contributions of inspiring others in the creative state of Vermont.

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Celebrate Tell a Story Day

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Firelight will not let you read fine stories, but it’s warm, and you won’t see the dust on the floor.” ~ Celtic Saying 

Tomorrow, October 28th is Tell a Story Day in Scotland and in the United Kingdom. http://bit.ly/11gmg3. Telling stories verbally and through the written word can be fulfilling for both narrator and for the listener or reader!  

What a great opportunity to use creativity to tell stories orally.

  • Tell a scary story – dim the lights, illuminate the room with some candles and creep the listener right out of their seat!
  • Reminisce about your favorite family story. Use old family photos to enhance the images you paint in words.
  • Seize the moment, act silly and use your wit to tell a hilarious, goofy tale.
  • Host a murder mystery party story. Have your guests be the gumshoe in solving “who done it.”
  • Tell a Cinderella love story and dress the part! Don’t forget the handsome young prince too.
  • Do a little research on your favorite era in history. Dress in period clothing and do some play acting to recount the tale or the event. 

Do you like telling stories through writing? In the United States, the perfect opportunity to start writing your novel is coming up. November is National Novel Writing Month! Challenge yourself to write a novel in 30 days. There is a website that will give you all the details of how you can be involved and many local libraries participate with fun events all revolving around this nationwide event for authors. For more information, please visit  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Happy Story Telling, Everyone!

More independent thoughts, words and views tomorrow from www.CornerstoneFulfillmentService.com.

Book Selling Opportunities

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“You don’t get harmony when everybody
sings the same note
.” ~Doug Floyd

There is a misconception that once an author finishes his book, the work is done. In truth, the work has just begun. Promotion and
marketing is even more important than the writing of the narrative, if an author is to successfully sell. Even in the traditional publishing world, authors are more often being called into action to fulfill the duties of promoting and marketing their own book.

It is important that independent publishers think beyond book signing appearances at libraries and bookstores. Although those are appropriate venues for bookselling, there are many more opportunities that exist.

 Last weekend, I attended a fall food and wine festival at the Bethesda Co-op – A Natural Foods Market in Bethesda, Maryland. http://bit.ly/nDoCoB. My niece works there and she wanted me to see where she works. As I strolled through the outside tents of food and wine sampling the goods, I came across an author, Judith Welles, selling her book. It is a regional publication called “Cabin John: Legends and Life in an Uncommon   Place. www.judithwelles.com. The book is full of mystery and history of the area known as Cabin John, along the Potomac River. The Cabin John Citizens Association Foundation (a non-profit organization) published the book. www.cabinjohn.org.

I spent time with the author discussing the book and the marketing of it. The book is finding great success in selling in several local hardware stores. As we all know, men are attracted to hardware stores like magnets. Many men are also history buffs, thus the book is finding it’s way into the hands of men through a retail environment far different than a bookstore.

This brings me to the point of how necessary it is to think beyond the bookstore when researching bookselling opportunities. In fact, artists working all kinds of mediums, can promote their work by appearing in unlikely places.

I was also introduced to a lively band of six talented women called Wicked Jezabel. They were not in a nightclub, in a bar or on a traditional stage. They were on the roof of a structure, jamming away at the Natural Foods Market Fair. They are promoting their art in non-traditional ways. www.wickedjezabel.com.

Next time you think book selling opportunities are limited, take a good look around. Sometimes doing things in non-traditional ways draws attention – that is why the independent publishing industry of books, films and music is finding great success! The industry and the artists in it are fulfilling a need for independence away from the routine.

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