Saturday, March 30, 2013

NaPoWriMo is Coming Right at You - Five Tips to Be Prepared

NaPoWriMo is coming at you.
It's not too late to get some preparation done.
April is a busy writing month, especially for poetry.  I love the challenge of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) where I pound out a draft of a poem each and every day.  Inevitably, it forces me out of my comfort zone and into a place where new and different becomes the norm.  I've been working for some time on my chapbook of poems of childhood horror, and it needs a few more gems.  NaPoWriMo is pretty unpredictable, but I do usually get a handful of good drafts out of the experience.

I am never adequately prepared, since there isn't really a best way to prepare for poetry madness except to go crazy.  But this year I did manage to come up with a few tips for myself.  I thought I'd share them here since others might want some ideas for how they might inspire themselves.

1.  Find some good prompts and exercises.  Find blogs, journals, and books with good prompts.  I'm going to post a selection of ideas right here at the start of each week of NaPo, using some new thoughts I've had as well as prompts from my "Prompt the Muse" archive.  Check places like deviantArt for people who do things a little more off the wall.

2.  Surround yourself with poetry.  As always, the best inspiration for writing is reading.  Get your favorite poetry books down, and then find some you haven't read yet.  Start each writing session with a little reading, and your creative flow will, well, flow.

3.  Fill your toolbox.  Inspiration can come from anywhere, so give yourself some room to bring new ideas to the surface.  Your toolbox might include paper, markers, paints, camera, computer, favorite pen, clay, music, picture book, or whatever.  When you are stuck, go to your toolbox and let yourself play.

4.  Connect with the community.  Don't let the unrelenting pace of NaPo drag you down.  Make a list of others participating in this madness so you can stay in touch via twitter, blog comments, facebook or even in real life (heavens).  Your poetry pals are your best source of support when things are going slow, and greatest fans when you have a banner day!

5.  Take Care of Yourself.  Now is a good time to consider what you'll need over the next month to stay at your writing best.  I'm a big fan of nutritious food, good sleep, and moderate exercise (even if I don't actually do what I should, when I should).  I know perfectly well that taking care of myself will result in more stamina and energy for writing.  I'm thinking right now of what I need to do over the next month to increase the chances that food, sleep, and exercise won't be missed.

Good luck with NaPoWriMo!  Check back in here for daily prompts and writing exercises, hopefully to be posted at the beginning of each week (that starts tomorrow, yikes!)

Image Credit:  Pink Sherbet Photography Flikr via Creative Commons CC 2.0

Monday, March 18, 2013

Grabbing The Golden Fleece of Writing: What's Your Great Prize?

Grab your writing treasure and run with it.
"Colchian" by "MO-ffie" on
A small, bold figure grabs a glistening prize right out from under a malevolent beast, and then makes off with it.  What is this amazing treasure that is worth such a risk?  What is the true nature of the monster?  When can our hero pause, panting, heart pounding, and regard the reward in their hands?

This fantastic image has been a favorite of mine for some time now, as I've been contemplating the questions above within the context of writing.  Writing is a tremendous risk, and each of us has a different idea of what is worth that risk, and what the true "prize" can be.  Consider for a moment - what are the greatest challenges or barriers that you face regarding your writing?  What treasures do you hope to gain?  When will you have time to sit back and enjoy what you have earned, or do you feel you have to keep on running?

As a writer with mental illness issues, I often find my greatest challenge and my greatest treasure are exactly the same thing.  That is - writing itself.  I love writing, it is its own reward.  At the same time, writing is scary, even terrifying, and seems to dog my heels with its fangs and fiery breath.  In my image, writing is both the fleece and the monster.

I'm working on a short story right now that I can't finish.  My mind, as is often the case, is filled with self-doubt and even self-sabotage.  I can't get the negative "voices" to give it a rest.  They act as if they know so much more than the positive voices.  "This story is dumb.  Why did you want to write about this in the first place?  This one isn't any fun to read.  Are you sure you want to deal with 'that' issue in this piece?  This story sounds trite.  You don't know even understand what you are writing about, what are you trying to do here?  This is a waste of time.  You aren't doing anything important by writing this story."  And on and on.  These are the "voices" of writing for me, borne from a history of anxiety and depression disorders.  These are the voices that follow me like a angry monster.

In the scenario of me and my short story, the beast has managed to get its teeth into the fleece.  I am in a tug-of-war trying to retrieve it and make off.  I feel like the tiny figure, and the monster seems so huge.  I have to continually prompt the positive voices, and keep fighting.  I need to be bold, to continue to take risks, to ignore the dark ideas that would kill every story before it even gets half-made.  I need to yank hard, grab my fleece and run like crazy, not looking back for an instant.  Take another look at that piece of art.  That beast is scary.

It's possible that if I thought the beast would stop chasing me if I dropped the fleece, that I would do it.  You know, give up, toss the prize away into the monster's mouth, and be free of it.  But I know that isn't true.  That monster follows me no matter what treasure I seek, however small.  So I might as well try to grab the biggest and the shiniest - writing - and run like crazy.

So what were your answers?  What is your goal, your great treasure to be found in the context of writing?  What is the monster chasing you and trying to snatch your prize away?  How do you win this race, and finally have your moment of glee, throwing your fleece about your shoulders and dancing in the sun?

Image Credit:   "Colchian" by "MO-ffie" on
My comments:  I have always loved this piece of art.  There is an intense sense of motion and urgency.  Along with that, there is a hint of humor, since the hero is so very tiny - a stick figure with a fleece running for their life from a gratuitously massive monster.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Building Audience for Speculative Poetry: Overall Goals

Euterpe - Muse of Poetry
In my first post on this topic "Definitions," I talked about the initial steps I would take to expand the audience for speculative poetry.  My thoughts were "first to define terms, and then to plan initial assessment.  I can't do anything without assessment - too long working in science and science education."  It's good to know thyself :)

To that end, I started my foray into definitions in that post (and I will continue to work on definitions throughout the whole audience-building process), and now I am going to start thinking about assessment.

By assessment I mean the suite of tools, data, and procedures that let you know if you are succeeding, and if not, what you need to change to put yourself on the right path.  Assessment helps you define your goals and then lets you know if you've actually achieved them.  Like definitions, it is something that goes with you throughout a project.

In considering what assessment I would develop for my little (har) project here, the first thing I need to know is, what do I really want to accomplish, what does that mean, and how will I know when I've done it?  Trying to frame an overarching goal into words is tough ... so instead, here are some of the markers one might look for as they go forward.  This is just a brainstorm at this point - I'm looking for input from you.

  • More people writing spec poems (also could be more poems being written)
  • More people reading spec poems (also could be more poems being read)
  • More journals and mags publishing spec poems
  • More general buzz about spec poetry (more blogs with spec poetry and related topics, more tweets, more general literary news about spec poetry.)
  • More spec poetry events like readings, talks, panels, etc.
  • More spec poetry education opportunities like IRL or online classes
  • More spec poetry by POC, queer, marginalized, people-we-historically-miss authors
  • More spec poetry awards
  • More spec poetry groups, organizations, societies
  • More spec poetry resources, such as bibliographies, Who's Who lists, etc.
  • More interaction with spec poetry and other fields such as science, visual art, music, etc. 
  • More general respect for spec poetry as a genre
  • etc.

What would you like to see on such a list?  What changes in the area of speculative fiction would really fire you up, make you happy, thrill you, etc.?  What would success look like for you? (And here is the question to tip off the next blog post - how would you go about measuring it?)

Image Credit:  Euterpe, Muse of Poetry by Guffens, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain