Sunday, May 14, 2017

Being a Good Literary Citizen - Part One - Motivations

"Being a Good Literary Citizen" is a favorite subject of mine, because I am a collaborator-type who enjoys finding ways for everyone to win.  I truly believe in the positive power of community, and I am both excited and humbled to be a part something as awesome as fiction and poetry writing (and writers.)  I've heard the topic of good literary citizenship come up a lot recently, and thought I'd post a few ramblings here about the subject.

I'm going to start with an anecdote of something that happened to me.  A writer on twitter asked for help with a research topic.  It was right up my alley as a planetary scientist, so I sent them an email with a bunch of ideas.  This person never responded back to me.  A few years later I'm reading an anthology, and I find a story from this writer with ideas right out of my email.

I do not think this writer acted as a good literary citizen.  Because I never received a response, or even a "hey, that story got published," I feel like I'm nothing more to this person than a resource to be tapped.  They got what they wanted from me and then forgot about me.  I do not feel like a fellow writer and colleague.  I'm certainly not in the mood to read any more of this person's work, and have stopped following them on social media.

Whenever something like this happens to me, or I hear about something similar happening to another writer, I rededicate myself to being a good literary citizen.  I want to be the sort of person who makes authentic contact with people, who gives thanks and credit, and who looks for ways to be a part of something bigger.  I want to be an empathetic, kind, inclusive and caring person who owns up to mistakes and who is always striving to learn and improve.  It goes beyond being a citizen, really, and becomes a sharing of person-hood.

Next post - I'm going to do a practical list of suggestions and ideas for being a good literary citizen.  If you have some thoughts of your own, write them here, and I'll include them in the list!

Image Credit: Hearthands  Public Domain Wikimedia commons

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Most Marvelous Muse

This year's Muse and the Marketplace conference, hosted by Boston's Grub Street, has come to an end.  I am tired but happy, and currently shuffling through my notes to see what might be fun and useful to post here on the blog.  I went to several great sessions and had a most encouraging interview with an agent.  Even though I was pretty much solo for the event, I got to hang out with some new friends, and met a lot of interesting people.  I'm following a lot of them on Twitter now, and it's a lot of fun to get more like-minded writers into my feed.

As for pluses for Muse, there are lots.  Most of the sessions I went to were presented by engaging and knowledgeable speakers.  I enjoyed the fact that there were few panels. (You know my thoughts on panels as I've posted about them before.)  All of these speakers were well prepared, and most had handouts so you didn't have to be taking notes like wild the whole time.  I was unable to attend the social events because of personal conflicts, but it looked like there were many of them, and they seemed quite popular given how attendees spoke about them afterwards.  The agent/editor portion of the event was organized and run well.

My gripes are pretty minor, generally speaking.  One is that some of the rooms were long and skinny, meaning that it was hard to get seated and easy to get lost in the back.  And, well, this conference isn't cheap, since it includes a hot buffet breakfast for two days, as well as other offerings.  In addition, there wasn't much for people interested specifically in speculative fiction, nor were there any poetry-related sessions that I spotted.  But no conference can be all things to all people. (As for genre, I'm hoping to hit Capclave later in the year.)

I think it is a very good conference for writers overall, if one can afford the price tag.  And I'd certainly recommend it over other, larger, writer's conferences that are all panels.  This conference gave me more of a feeling of community than others I've been to, and I'm hoping to go back again whenever my schedule permits.   

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Emerging From the Slush - AWP Panel

There's a lot of stories in that stack.
How do you make your story stand out?
Another panel I attended at AWP this year was the "Emerging From the Slush - How to get your short story published" panel.  The theme was looking at "Robert's Rules" - the ten ways to get you and your story noticed.  They handed out a bunch of neat-o bookmarks with all the critical information on it, so it was easy to get the main ideas at a glance, and know who was there.  Panelists were Robert Kerbeck (moderator), Michael Lemberger, Sujata Shekar, and Zach Powers.  (As before, the room was jammed to capacity, and I could not see the panel table, so I could always be certain who was talking when.  I have names when I'm pretty sure who was talking) 

In any case, I thought I'd share the list here and some of my notes.  There is nothing earth-shattering here, and I can't say I agree with all of the suggestions, but it is nice to have all the ideas in one place.
  1. Find a Good Home
    Michael - Your work is not you.  Your work may be rejected, but that does not mean you are rejected.  Aim high, start at the top of your list, then move down it.  Send to the places that your favorite writers are being published, and don't take it personally when you are rejected.  Person speaking? - Don't forget your home town journals, which are good places to publish and to connect.
  2. KISS Theory
    Robert - "Keep It a Short Story" (2500-4000 words ideally).  Sujata - Experiment with different page lengths with the same story.  It builds skills.  Shorter stories are easier to fit into most mags.
  3. Non-Fiction, Baby
    Michael - Non fiction gets published.  Journalism, critical essays, memoir, slice of life - all good to consider.  Build a corpus of work around a theme that is not all fiction.  This is a great step into publishing.  Book reviews are useful and help build connections.
  4. Get Personal
    Zach - Be personal in your communications whenever possible.  For example, "You published an author I like," "I'm a subscriber," "I received a personal rejection and you said submit again," or "We met at AWP and you said to give us a try."  Find a tidbit that sets your cover letter apart.  Just one or two sentences, and then the bio.
  5. Be Strategic, Not Indiscriminate
    Zach - Submit a lot, but be discriminating.  Get to know some journals very well.  Study them.  Meet people from them.  Know where to submit.  Tier your favorites.  Michael - Know yourself and know your work.  Be yourself - you will get the readers you are supposed to have.  It's ok to pick some journals out of your comfort zone for submissions. 
  6. Let Rejection Be Your Guide
    Sujata - This is not some kind of personal rating.  For myself, I apply to only one or two contests a year.  I like themed issues where they request new work, and new authors.  I don't happen to submit places that don't take simultaneous submissions.
  7. Two for the Price of One
    Person speaking? - When you get an acceptance, send thanks.  Also, you can suggest that a brand new story is also ready to go if they are interested.  Michael - Can you pull together stories with a thematic link?
  8. Go on Vacation
    Robert - Go to Writer's conferences, retreats, workshops, and meetings to meet people, develop relationships, and advance your career.  Try Tin House, Bread Loaf, Iowa Writer's Festival, Vermont.  Sujata - Workshops, Festivals, and Retreats are very useful if you do not have a traditional writer's background.  Apply for the scholarships.  "Voices of our Nation."
  9. Be a Volunteer
    Sujata - Read the slush for a journal, you become a good reader and editor.  It depersonalizes the process and you see your own submissions in a new light.  You learn the myriad of reasons why things are rejected.  You learn what is out there so you can write something else.  Zach - Help run a reading series, organize events, etc.  Michael - Be happy for others. 
  10. Editors Don't Bite
    Editors are people.  Get to know them.  Network, establish relationships, but don't monopolize their time.  Just talk and be sociable.
Image Credit - Stack of papers.  CC 2.0 Wikimedia Commons
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FileStack_retouched.jpg

Sunday, April 30, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #30 - Endings

The trail ends 1500 feet above the canyon floor of
Zion National Park.  Not for the afraid-of-heights.
What is the reward when the climb ends?
Wow!  It is the last day of NaPoWriMo 2017, and it is the last prompt!  And so it is time to pat yourself on the back for drafting so many new poems this month.  You participated with a huge community of writers all coming together to celebrate and promote poetry.  I had a great time, and even got some really good drafts this year.  It has been a tremendous amount of work to get these prompts up, but there are so many ideas in these that I think I'll be able to use these same prompts for many years to come!  I hope you will return and do the same.

Fittingly, today our theme is "Endings."  Of course in fairy tales there is always the story that ends with "happily ever after" - which of course is not an ending at all.

Providence by Catherine Barnett

The jaywalkers

walked slowly, a cigarette warmed
someone’s hand. 


Some of the best sermons
don’t have endings, he said

while the tires rotated
unceasingly beneath us.


Expectations can be shifted with endings - birth as an ending to pregnancy, the first day of school as an ending to summer, and marriage as an ending to bachelorhood.  "Leaving" can be leaving to end something, or to start something new.  The same is true of graduation, divorce, and perhaps even death.  Beginnings and endings have a complicated relationship.

Mountain Time by Kathryne Stripling Byer

While prophets discourse about endings,
don’t you think she’d tell us the world as we know it
keeps calling us back to beginnings?
This labor to make our words matter
is what any good quilter teaches.


Many words that can describe endings come to mind, like finality, closure, finishing, and conclusion.  Endings may be satisfying or frustrating, planned or unexpected, and exciting or dull.  But as with all endings, there is something or some experience that has stopped or is no longer happening.  Assuming we really reach the ending ... and do not, like really almost all writers, just keep on rewriting ... 

Lot's Wife by Dana Littlepage Smith

And so I chose this brine,
now crystals shift. The salt dissolves
and I want to speak.


Whore of all hopes, I now believe
some stories survive
in order to remake their endings.


Prompt #30:  Choose some aspect of the concept of "endings" and write a poem.  What memories do you have of endings?  Are they happy, sad, bittersweet?  Do endings always come with opportunities for new beginnings?  Are there rewards at the end, or losses - something left behind?  What changes have happened because something has ended?  Are there lasting implications or impacts?  Can the ending really be achieved?  What holds us back from endings?  Consider answers to these questions as you craft your poem.

Ok, the big extra challenge today is craft your poem in a classic form you have never used before (like a pantoum, villanelle, sestina, etc.) 

Endings will be a good theme to follow for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Angels Landing CC 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, April 29, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #29 - Life Elsewhere

Life elsewhere - our imaginations
conceive of things both very alike
and very different from life we know.
Today's prompt is about "life elsewhere."  We have a general conception of what "life" is that surrounds us on a daily basis - people, animals, plants, insects, fish, etc.  It is known and familiar to us - our standard environment.  But what would life look like "elsewhere," in an environment very different from what we deal with daily?

The first thought one might have about another place for life is other planets.  (Of course as a planetary scientist this is my first thought, anyway :)  What would life look like if it were found on a very cold world, or in a world of dunes and dust, or a world where the surface is so hot it could melt lead?  Would it resemble life as we know it (with a few modifications) or would it be completely unrecognizable?

[American Journal] by Robert Hayden

disguise myself in order to study them unobserved
adapting their varied pigmentations     white black
red brown yellow      the imprecise and strangering
distinctions by which they live     by which they
justify their cruelties to one another

The White Fires of Venus by Denis Johnson

They know all about us on Andromeda,
they peek at us, they see us
in this world illumined and pasteled
phonily like a bus station,

But there are environments on Earth that are also "elsewhere" - places that are quite different from what we normally consider.  What about the possibility of life inside of rocks, up in the clouds, deep inside of glaciers, or boiling away in natural hot springs?  We have found life in these places.  But don't limit yourself to the scientific facts, here.  What about life inside of the Sun, for example?

Take the ideas and feel free to run with them in whatever direction your mind takes you.  Elsewhere includes other dimensions, other planes of being, different realms, and even other universes.

Prompt #29:  Choose some aspect of the concept of "life elsewhere" and write a poem.  Would life in these places grow to be intelligent?  Would it evolve the same way we do?  How would society and culture come to pass?  Would those concepts have any meaning?  Would we be able to visit, even communicate?  How?  Consider answers to these questions as you craft your poem.

For something more specific, let the form of your poem in some way reflect the kind of life you have envisioned - ordered, simple, complex, free-form, wiggly, small, big or whatever.

This theme is a natural for expression in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy context!

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Ethereal Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0

Friday, April 28, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #28 - Artificial

The Hoover Dam - a construct associated
with both positive and negative impacts
on people, nature, and civilization.
We've spent several days this month on prompts that focus on the natural world.  To contrast with that, today's prompt is about the concept of "artificial."  As with the word "natural," "artificial" has many meanings and implications.  Merriam Webster has several definitions for artificial that include:

- humanly contrived (artificial limb)
- caused or produced by a human and especially social or political agency (artificial price advantage)
- lacking in natural or spontaneous quality (artificial smile)
- imitation or sham (artificial flavor)

The implications for many of these definitions can be negative - like the artificial smile or a "sham."  But other definitions bring to mind positive responses.  Humans have contrived many critical advances like vaccines and built important constructs like weather satellites.  And poets have long included the artificial in their examinations of life and living.  Here are a few lines ...

Ruin and Beauty by Patricia Young

Through the open window we hear nothing--
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city’s traffic.
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.

My Proteins by Jane Hirshfield

Yet I, they say, am they—
my bacteria and yeasts,
my father and mother,
grandparents, lovers,
my drivers talking on cell phones,
my subways and bridges,
my thieves, my police
who chase my self night and day.

Lake Havasu by Dorianne Laux

the TV on: seven dead
from Tylenol, the etched black wedge of the
Vietnam Memorial, the Commodore Computer
unveiled, the first artificial heart, just beginning
to wonder if something might be wrong.

Prompt #28:  Choose some aspect of the concept of "artificial" and write a poem.  Consider the feelings of wonder and awe that we often associate with the natural world, and apply them to our artificial world.  Think about why we look at nature and see beauty, and use those same eyes on artificial constructs.  Look at what it is that contributes to the "making" of artificial things - A bulldozer or crane?  A glass beaker in a laboratory?  A metal file in a machine shop?  What are the implications of the human ability to invent, to create, and to manipulate and change the natural world?  Consider these ideas as you craft your poem.

For something more specific, use a form like haiku that is often used to contemplate nature.

And naturally I'll be thinking of what I can do with this theme in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy context.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Hoover Dam Wikimedia Commons GNU Free Documentation License

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #27 - Adulthood

Young women celebrating their 15th year - Quinceañeras
A traditional entry into adulthood celebrated
in many Latino cultures.
Today's prompt focuses on the concept of "adulthood."  Some of us as children longed for the days when we would be "grown ups" while others never wanted the obvious responsibilities.  But time passes unabated, and people get older.  Consider your own transition into adulthood - is being an adult what you imagined as a child?

Many cultures have gateways, rites, or celebrations to mark the entry of a person into adulthood.  But each culture has its own ideas of what it means to be an adult.  For some cultures, it is expected that people might do any of the following: marry, have children, get jobs, make important decisions, take full care of themselves, or take care of older relatives.  Some people say they are "adulting" when they are fixing the dishwasher, making a dentist appointment, paying bills, commuting to work, and other tasks.

And here, of course, are a few lines about adulthood, and what it means to be an adult, as found in poetry:

Our Never by Benjamin S. Grossberg

Is the never of childhood, deeper
than the never of adolescence,
which has a whining, stammering
quality, which is a stamped foot
followed by huffing steps, and wholly
unlike the never of adulthood,
has none of the bright spider
cracks of reason multiplying
along its roof, threading its dark
dome with fine lines of light.

from Citizen, VI [My brothers are notorious] by Claudia Rankine

Then there are these days, each day of our adult lives. They will never forget our way through, these brothers, each brother, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

Your hearts are broken. This is not a secret though there are secrets. And as yet I do not understand how my own sorrow has turned into my brothers’ hearts.

You Can’t Have It All by Barbara Ras

You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia

Prompt #27:  Choose some aspect of the concept of "adulthood" and write a poem.  What are the characteristics of people who are acting as adults?  What happens when people are treated as children even when they are adults?  What happens to children forced to be adult-like?  What are the responsibilities and requirements of adults?  What are the implications for culture and society, as they define adulthood?  Consider these ideas as you craft your poem.

For something more specific, write about a rite of passage that signifies adulthood.

And naturally I'll be thinking of what I can do with this theme in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy context.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  The Garden  Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #26 - Coming Home

"Coming Home"
Artwork depicting a lighthouse stretching into the distance
to guide a lost sailing ship home.
Building on yesterday's theme of "Travel," today we look at "Coming Home."  It is a unique aspect of the travel experience that requires having gone away, and then defining a home to which to return.  Some journeys end with home as the destination every day, while other trips never return home at all.  All trips are different, all homes are unique.  Read through yesterday's prompt on travel, and consider how different kinds of voyages would "come home."  And here, of course, are a few lines about "coming home" found in poetry:

We All Return to the Place Where We Were Born by Oscar Gonzales

Then, crickets would forge in the wind
their deep music of centuries
and the purple fragrances of Grandmother
always would receive without questions
our return home.


Our House by Sophie Cabot Black

As we enter our home, the way we enter love
Returning from elsewhere to call out
Each other’s names, pulling the door closed behind us.


Where You Live by Jonathan Wells

Imagine you are coming home. Your front
steps are scattered with fresh petals or no
they are not there and you return in your
regular shoes from your regular leather chair.
The feeling is the same.


Prompt #26:  Choose some aspect of the concept of "coming home" and write a poem.  What or who awaits you there?  What is different upon your return?  How has home changed?  How have you changed?  What aspects of home are longed for, and which are undesired?  What do you bring with you or what have you lost since your last visit?  Coming home can also be something that occurs entirely in the mind - a coming home to ourselves.  Consider these ideas as you craft your poem.

For something more specific, write your poem in a standard form, using both meter and rhyme.

And naturally I'll be thinking of what I can do with this theme in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy context.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Coming Home Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NoPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #25 - Travel

Traveling in the ultimate vehicle - the Lunar Rover.
Used by astronauts to traverse the surface of the Moon.
Travel and poetry are classic partners.  There is so much great travel poetry out there I had a hard time deciding which I would include in this post!  You can take a look at this link for a full selection to browse.  But for now, consider these few lines, each of which shows a different aspect of the nature of travel:

Flying by Sarah Arvio

“In the face of technological fact,
even the most seasoned traveler feels
the baffled sense that nowhere else exists.”

Travel by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
    And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
    No matter where it’s going.

The Burn by Naomi Shihab Nye

Such a swift lump rises in the throat when
a uniformed woman spits Throw it away!
and you tremble to comply wondering why
rules of one airport don’t match another’s,
used to carrying two Ziploc bags not just one
but your pause causes a uniformed man to approach
barking, Is there something you don’t understand?
and you stare at him thinking
So many things

Travel brings to mind so many experiences and images.  Travel can be as simple as stepping a few paces down the road, or as complicated as a rocket launching to the Moon.  Modes of travel include using feet, bicycles, buses, motor boats, rickshaws, carriages, horses, balloons, motorcycles, planes, wheelchairs, elephants, trucks, trains, camels, race cars, canoes, and much more.  The experience may be brief or long, exciting or dull, and well-trod or unknown.  It may have a goal or purpose, or may be done simply for the act of the travel itself.  There may be one destination, many, or none.  It can be done solo or with many people, and be done in haste or well thought out. 

Prompt #25:  Choose some aspect of travel and write a poem about it.  Consider the reasons why one might choose or need to travel, and the modes of transportation one might use.  Think about what might be seen on a trip.  Consider what it is like to deal with new experiences, like new languages, food, accommodations, manners, and more.  Both positive and negative feelings may be associated with any aspect of travel - why were these associations made?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem.  

For something more specific, use a memento from a past trip, a photo you took, or a particularly clear memory, as the inspiration for your poem.

I think I'll have an easy time working this prompt into one of my themes of sci-fi, horror, or fantasy.  Maybe a good, old fashioned broomstick ride :)

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Lunar Rover, NASA

Monday, April 24, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #24 - Music

Since yesterday's prompt focused on "silence," today we are looking at "music."  Of course, for some people silence may seem like "music to the ears," so you can consider words like: quiet, noise, ruckus, cacophony, and harmony as you think of music and poetry.  The two have long been in close association, with the natural rhythms of poetry playing like music, and so much of lyrical music being its own form of poetry.

Many people have strong associations with music, as some do with particular smells.  Here are a few lines from Katrina Vandenberg's poem, Record:

I regret giving up
your two boxes of vinyl,
which I loved. Surely

they were too awkward,
too easily broken
for people who loved music

the way we did. But tonight
I’m in the mood for ghosts,


Music is made by people across all cultures and has been made down through all of recorded history (and no doubt a lot longer than that.)  The variety is limitless.  Some music is made with instruments, and these can be created from material on hand like wood, or manufactured material like metal.  The human body is also an instrument, used for percussion sounds and also of course for singing.  Music can be composed ahead of time and preserved for generations, or it can be spontaneous, lasting just for that moment.  It can be performed solo or in groups.  Some music has strict rules, rhythm, and tune, while other music is more free form.  In many societies, the ability to perform music is a valued skill.  And of course some music never seems to get out of your head (ear-worm).  Music can make a strong cultural and generational statement.

Prompt #24:  Choose some aspect of the concept of music and write a poem.  What forms of music do you enjoy?  What instrument do you wish you could play?  What are your memories of music from major life events such as weddings?  What place does music have in your life?  What about the concepts of dissonance or being out of tune?  What are the implications for someone who does not hear music, or does not enjoy music?  In what ways is music viewed positively or negatively?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem.

For something more specific, write a poem that is inspired by the lyrics of a song, or a particular piece of instrumental music.

My mind is already bubbling with ideas to explore this theme in sci-fi, horror, or fantasy!

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Cello Player Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #23 - Silence

Poster encouraging people to refrain
from talking about war specifics.
Silence here is equated with security.
Silence is a multi-dimensional and powerful concept.  It brings forth impressions both positive and negative.  Silence is something often desired when someone is trying to sleep, but at other times people want noise and music.  It is canonical in genre fiction that when someplace is "quiet ... too quiet" that something bad is about to happen.  In silence, one's internal voice is easier to hear.  For some this is a blessing and for others it is a trial.  In meditation, people sit with those voices and try to "quiet the mind."  Libraries are places in which silence is enforced, like the "quiet car" in a train.  Here is a stanza from the poem "Silence" by Billy Collins:

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

Prompt #22:  Write a poem that includes some aspect of the concept of silence.  Consider how it is that people "confront" or "deal" with silence.  Think about silence as signs of both power and of weakness.  In what cases is complete silence an achievable ideal?  What are the implications of "being silenced" or as a child, not permitted to make noise?

Image from the Women's March
2017.  Personal sign equating
silence with violence.
For something more specific, can you write a poem that feels quiet, or gives the impression of silence?

As usual, I'll be exploring this topic through sci-fi, horror, or fantasy.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Women's March, Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0; WAAC Securiity, Wikimedia Commons, National Archives Cooperation Project

Saturday, April 22, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #22 - The Sun-Earth Connection

View of the sunrise from the International Space Station.
Today's prompt celebrates both Earth Day and the day of the Science March.  The prompt centers around the connection between our Sun and our Earth.  This is not as clinical a prompt as it might seem at first - for example, poets have long been writing about sunrises, sunsets, and seasons.  All are phenomena that stem from the Earth's relationship with a nice, bright star. 

In the early 1600's, Galileo found himself at odds with the Roman Catholic church when he said his telescopic observations (like the phases of Venus) were inconsistent with the Earth being at the center of the solar system.  This was critical evidence for the change from the paradigm of the Ptolemaic system (with the Earth at the center of the solar system) to the Copernican system (which is centered on the Sun.) 

The energy from the Sun drives many cycles on our Earth, such as the water cycle.  So you can blame the Sun-Earth connection for rainy days, as well as other weather phenomena such as storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  Without the charged particles streaming off of the Sun, which subsequently hit our Earth's magnetic field, there would be no aurora.  The geometry of the Earth, Moon, and Sun are also responsible for solar and lunar eclipses.  And of course life as we know it requires what the Earth has to offer, such as liquid water, as well as the abundant energy of the Sun.

Here is an excerpt from the poem "Ah! Sun-flower" by William Blake

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Prompt #22:  Choose some aspect of the Sun-Earth connection and write a poem.  Consider which of the societal, cultural, historic, or spiritual, or scientific aspects of the Sun-Earth connection resonate with you.  What if the Earth had been paired with a much different star?  What would happen if there was too much sunlight?  What if the Sun became dim or disappeared?  Consider topics as varied as: using solar power, getting skin cancer from overexposure to the sun, the worship of Sun deities, the the fear of the nighttime absence of the Sun, telling time with a sundial, and the eventual fate of the Sun and the Earth.

For something more specific, try writing about the Sun-Earth connection without mentioning the name of Sun or Earth directly.

As usual, I'll be exploring this topic through sci-fi, horror, or fantasy.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Sunrise.  ISS.  NASA.

Friday, April 21, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #21 - Dystopia Utopia

Some believe King Arthur will
return and once again bring about
the mythical utopia that was Camelot.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines dystopia as "an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized (deprived of human qualities, personality, and spirit) and often fearful lives."  Its opposite is the utopia "a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions."  These definitions paint such places as imaginary, or so idealized as to be unachievable.  But aspects of both conditions exist on Earth today.  Places are always in flux between these two extremes.  Yet people do not agree on what makes something a perfect place to live.  Neither do they all agree on what potential aspects of our lives are dehumanizing.  Some find carrying passports to be dehumanizing, while others see it as a helpful way to keep order.

Imagining strict utopias or dystopias means delving into all of the implications for people, families, food production and consumption, music, child-rearing, transportation, employment, and more.  What do cities look like in these cases, or do they even exist?  How about countries, continents, or the entire Earth - what do these things look like in a utopian or dystopian world?  How do things function, or has all function broken down?

Prompt #21: Choose the concept of dystopia or utopia and write a poem.   Consider what caused this state.  What brought about the utopia or dystopia?  What are the features of this place?  In either case, is it possible for people to find happiness there?  How are these states maintained over time?  What pressures exist to change them, and how could they be made to break down?  Consider some of these ideas in your poem.

For something more specific, try to match the form of your poem to the theme.  If you are writing abut a rigid society, choose a strong meter and rhyme scheme.  If you are discussing an Eden-like Earth, choose a form that flows more freely.

Dystopias and utopias are both common themes to explore in sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, so I have it easy today.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:Marriage of King Aurthur Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #20 - Money

Money is the theme of today’s poetry prompt. This is a loaded word with a vast amount of imagery and implications for use in poetry. Wealth can represent power, greed, luxury. A lack of money can result in poverty, hardship, and debt. People associate money with social strata. Money can be an obsession, and can make one think of gambling, the lottery, or of someone being a workaholic. Money can be earned, stolen, or even just found on a sidewalk or in the couch. Love of money is canonically “the root of all evil” yet philanthropy is viewed positively. Here are a few lines from some poetry dealing with money:

More Money than God by Richard Michelson

But still he checked each lottery ticket which littered
the empty lot next door, praised their silver latex glitter,
praying to the beautiful unscratched, like little gods.

Money by Howard Nemerov

The nickel: one side shows a hunchbacked bison
Bending his head and curling his tail to accommodate
The circular nature of money. Over him arches
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and, squinched in
Between that and his rump, E PLURIBUS UNUM,
A Roman reminiscence that appears to mean
An indeterminately large number of things

Prompt #20: Write a poem about money. Does it represent safety and comfort, or does it seem there is never enough? What about the imagery of debt - being in the red or the black? How about different economic models such as capitalism? It also has implications for what you then purchase with that money. What ideas about money seem to resonate with you? Include those in your poem.

For something specific, use some words in your poem that you find on actual forms of money - bills, cheques, coins, or credit cards.

Money in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy aspect will be very interesting to explore!

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USCurrency_Federal_Reserve.jpg Money, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #19 - Body

The face - a part of the body that garners
much attention.
Today's prompt deals with the body.  It is something every person lives with, and so provides a powerful shared experience.  Yet at the same time, nobody has the same relationship with their body.  Bodies function differently from one another - some have chronic illness, others disability, some are optimized for sports, while others are honed to create art through excellent hand-eye coordination. Every body is just a body, and yet each is perfectly unique.  Each part has a form and function, and of course a body is far more than the sum of these parts.

Poets have long celebrated and castigated the body in verse.  A classic example is Walt Whitman's poem The Body Electric:

"To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round
his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them,
and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,"

Also then there is Lucille Clifton's poem Homage to my Hips:

"these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips."

Prompt #19: Write a poem that features some aspect of the body.  Think about the senses, illness versus wellness, what the body can do and how it enables or inhibits how we interact with the world.  Imagine bodily experiences that create a strong impression, such as childbirth, running a marathon, injury in a car accident, a heart transplant, or the first dance at a wedding.  Also imagine experiences such as dissociation that take us away from our body.  What does it mean to "live in the body" or to be "grounded in the body?"  Think of the general concepts we have surrounding the body such as nudity, shame or pride, body shapes and sizes, how body relates to concepts of beauty, etc.  Consider these questions as you craft your poem.  

For something more specific, use a standard form to write this poem that includes both meter and rhyme.

As always I will be considering the body as my theme while looking at sci-fi-, fantasy, or horror poetry.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Venus of Arles CC 2.5 Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #18 - Games

The game of Go.  More than 2,500 years old.
People have been playing games for thousands of years. Games are integral to culture, and are played to learn skills, for recreation, to determine rankings, to educate, for exercise, to win money or prizes, and more.

Games may include items that are manipulated, like balls, pieces, or dice - or they can be played entirely without props of any kind, like a game of "twenty questions" or chase games like "it." There are usually some kind of rules to the game, and often a strategy or approach that is expected to yield a good result. Some games have an aspect of luck or chance, while others do not. Some require physical ability while others emphasize knowledge or other skills.

Prompt #18: Write a poem that includes a game. This can be a formal game, like a board game or game of skill, or it can be something more subtle, like a power play between people. What about this game interests you - the rules, the structure, the interplay, or the outcome? How does the game play out in your poem? Does there have to be a winner or loser? Is someone cheating or breaking the rules? Consider these questions as your craft your poem.

For something more specific, write your poem from the point of view of someone watching the game from the outside, not one of the 'players' (however you choose to define that).  Then shift the point of view to be from one of the players' perspectives.

Games will be a good prompt for something sci-fi, horror, or fantasy, which makes things easy on me for this poem :)

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Go Game.  Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0

Monday, April 17, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #17 - Choices


Actual paths diverging in an actual wood.
With an actual copy of Frost's poem posted there.
In the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the wizard Dumbledore says succinctly, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are ..."  The importance of choice in shaping character, destiny, relationships and more has long been explored in literature.  A famous example in poetry is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost:

     I shall be telling this with a sigh
     Somewhere ages and ages hence:
     Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
     I took the one less traveled by,
     And that has made all the difference.

A search for choices in poetry reveals many gems ... here are a couple of stanzas.

Choices by Tess Gallagher

     saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
     the uppermost branches.
     I don’t cut that one.
     I don’t cut the others either.

Choice by Emily Dickinson

     When figures show their royal front
     And mists are carved away, --
     Behold the atom I preferred
     To all the lists of clay!

Prompt #17:  Write a poem that includes an important choice.  Is this a choice that defines a future fate?  Does this choice influence relationships with people, animals, or the Earth?  Or perhaps it is a choice that elucidates or reinforces some aspect of character?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem. 

For something more specific, make your poem very short.  Choose each word with great care, thinking not just about the words you are choosing, but the ones that are not being chosen, as well.

As as always I'll be using the prompt somehow in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy context.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Woodland paths Wikimedia Commons CC2.0 Tony Atkin

Sunday, April 16, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #16 - Supernatural

The Raven - Good or bad omen?
We've done several prompts dealing with nature and natural elements, so it is time to flip that and consider the supernatural, instead.  These are poems that contain elements that are beyond the natural world as most people perceive it.  They might include magic or ghosts, professions like medium or sorcerer, or abilities like telekinesis or telepathy.

Themes such as these are common in classic poetry, such as represented in this last stanza from "The Raven" By Poe:

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Supernatural poetry hardly has to be grim.  There are poems of good fairies, kindly ghosts, and benevolent powers.  Some prophesies and omens lead to the fabled chest of gold.

Prompt #16:  Write a supernatural poem.  What elements will you include that are beyond the usual conception of the natural world?  Will your poem be uplifting, dark, or will it strike a balance?  How does the use of a supernatural element in the poem free your creativity, and on the other hand, how does it limit you?  In what ways does using supernatural elements change how you approach writing a poem?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem. 

For something more specific, shape the bones of your poem to reinforce the theme.  Do something unexpected with the line lengths or spacing. 

Supernatural is of course a perfect prompt for sci-fi, fantasy and horror - lots of options.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: female raven, GNU Free Documentation, CC 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, April 15, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #15 - To Make Human


The Easter Bunny is an
anthropomorphized rabbit.
The assignation of human traits or humanity to an inanimate or inhuman object is a common device in poetry. For example, Silvia Plath gave human life to flowers in her poem "Poppies in October." The final lines are:

Oh my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frosts, in a dawn of cornflowers

The poppies now possess mouths that can cry like human mouths. It emphasizes the speaker's feelings, their astonishment at being in just this place, at just this time, to witness this spectacle.

So what's the difference between "personification" and "anthropomorphism?"  Everyone seems to have their own answer for this, as the two terms are so closely related.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary says this about personify: "to conceive of or represent as a person or as having human qualities or power" or "to be the embodiment or personification of : i.e. a teacher who personified patience."  Anthropomorphism is defined as "to attribute human form or personality to things not human."  A lot of Disney sidekicks are animals that have been completely anthropomorphized such as Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio or Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid.

Prompt #15:  Write a poem in which an object, deity, animal, or other inhuman object is given human traits, or acts as a human being.  How has it become the embodiment of human characteristics?  What is this object thinking, doing, and feeling?  How does this personification or anthropomorphism work in your poem?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem. 

For something more specific, try following a rhyme scheme in your poem.

There are so many options for "to make human" in fantasy, horror, or sci-fi i hardly know where to start ...

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Easter Bunny Postcard 1907 Wikimedia Commons.  Public Domain

Friday, April 14, 2017

Top Ten Reasons You Don't Have an Agent Yet - AWP Panel

Want to seal the deal with an agent?
Check this top ten and see
if you are ready to go.
This is a continuation of my previous post "Demystifying the Business Side of Writing and Publishing" which was a panel at the 2017 AWP conference.  One of the topics the panel spent the most time on was 'getting an agent.'  The panel had so many ideas related to this that I figured it deserved its own post.

To reiterate, the panel members as listed in the guide are: Whitney Davis, Tarfia Faizullah, Paula Munier, Joshua Shenk, and Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum.  Again, I was completely blocked in a packed room and could not see the panel table, so I wasn't sure who was speaking when.  But I think the bulk of this was shared by Paula Munier, who was introduced as an agent.

Top Ten Reasons You Don't Have an Agent Yet:
  1. You are approaching the wrong agent.  You need to have a similar sensibility to the agent you have selected.  These people are swamped with submissions they will never represent because the authors have not done their homework.  Send only to people you think will really resonate with your work.
  2. You are not being strategic.  This is related to the above.  Don't just send work out to anyone at all, have a solid plan and reasons for that plan.
  3. Your query letter isn't working.  The query letter needs to be "sales copy" and many writers are not good at that kind of writing.  A query is a pitch, and needs to be written like one.
  4. Your story idea isn't unique.  The story has to stand out against the competition or against those that are in the same market.  Focus on what makes you and your work unique or special and enhance those traits.
  5. You don't know the competition.  Related to the above.  Read more within your own market and community to know how to make your work stand out.  Support your own community by reading.
  6. Your story idea isn't strong.  Even a unique idea must be strong enough to sustain a book length narrative.
  7. Your story idea is not well executed.  It's unique and goes the distance, but there are other issues ... can you cleanly pitch this story in 50 words or less to sell it?  If not, there may be issues with execution of the story.
  8. Your craft is not high enough yet.  Again, related to the above.  Stories have to be crafted at the highest level to have a chance, since competition is so keen.  Look to your community to find ways to bolster your craft and make your story flawless.
  9. You are not active.  You need to be an active member of your writing community, at the local, national, and perhaps even international levels.  An agent wants to see you as a contributing part of this body of people.
  10. You are not prepared to be an author.  This is different from being a writer - being an author requires signings, social media, personal appearances, and more.  If the agent does not feel you are ready to be that person, they will not sign you.  Get good recommendations from established authors in your market.  Publish your work in other formats.  Have a solid writer's platform.  Present all work and yourself professionally.
Image Credit:  Handshake  Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hermandad_-_friendship.jpg

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #14 - Nature Haiku

Japanese pond in a garden - with lily pads and frog.
Building on our theme from yesterday (nature poetry) we are going to focus today on the form of the haiku.  At Poets.org we read this succinct description:

"Haiku began in thirteenth-century Japan as the opening phrase of a renga, a form of spoken poem, generally 100 stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. The much shorter haiku broke away from renga in the sixteenth-century, and was mastered a century later by the poet Matsuo Basho, who wrote this classic example:"
An old pond!
A frog jumps in—
the sound of water.
Basho executed the form with subtle perfection, including moments of reflection, joy, and even humor:

            now then, let's go out
            to enjoy the snow... until
            I slip and fall!

The traditional form is generally viewed as three lines with five, seven, and then five syllables each.  Although breaking the form is common in modern poetry.  There are many other aspects to a haiku, not just the length and form.  For example, a "haiku traditionally contains a kigo, a word or phrase that symbolizes or implies the season of the poem."  The specific words in Japanese were proscribed, and each pointed to a specific season.  Frogs, cherry blossoms, and swallows signify spring.  Summer is indicated by words such as the lotus flower, cicada, and the rainy season.  Autumn is denoted with the full Moon, crickets, and colored leaves.  Finally, the cold, fallen leaves, snow, and winter holidays all indicate the winter season.

Prompt #14:  Write a nature haiku based on a natural scene either before you, in your memory, or in a picture.  Include as many aspects of a traditional haiku as you can - the syllable count, a word or phrase for the season, and a 'surprise' moment for the end.  As you ponder your scene, consider what will evoke it in the shortest number of words.  What is the 'ah-ha' moment that comes to you, the twist or surprise that will make a reader nod or gasp, reading your poem?   

For something more specific, write four haiku about your scene.  Each should reflect the view in a different season.

As usual, I'm pondering nature haiku from a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy point of view.  I think this one will end up as another werewolf poem, but what can you do?

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Japanese Garden  CC 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 13, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #13 - Inspired by Nature

Akaka Falls State Park in Hawaii.
Our parks have a long, complicated
history between humans and nature.
A common source of inspiration for poetry is the natural world.  Poets have often been inspired by landscapes, the flora and fauna, and how these change with the seasons and over time.  There is a long history of poetry and poetic forms dedicated to nature.  Often, the poet uses some aspect of the natural world as a metaphor to illustrate or support some other idea or conflict.  Nature poetry can express the relationship with humankind in a variety of ways; pleasure over agricultural cultivation, guilt over mining, fear over storms and earthquakes, and more.

Prompt #13:  Write a poem inspired by nature.  You can use memory of a place you have been, or a photo of a place you would like to visit, to inspire you.  Find unique ways into the scene or the natural experience using all of your senses, what you see, hear, feel, smell, and even taste.  Consider the relationship between humanity and nature that you encounter in the scene.  Craft your poem using as many concrete images as you can.

For something more specific, consider how your natural scene changes or will change with time and the seasons, and include those changes in the poem. 

Today I might focus on the science end of sci-fi by using the universe as my natural scene.  But if that fails, as always there is a fantasy or horror element in there somewhere to explore :)

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: My pic of Akaka Falls.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #12 - Refocus the Pronoun

Our usual starting focus.
We approach poetry from the base of our own experience.  It is therefore no surprise that many poems are written from the perspective of the first person - the "I."  But sometimes we gravitate to this kind of focus when another would better suit.  Especially for emotional poetry, the first person perspective can be overwhelming and sometimes even overwrought.  Exploring points of view can generate new ideas and new options we had not considered.  Exploring both second and third person pronouns can breathe new life into your creation.

Prompt #12Idea One - Take a poem you have previously written from the point of view of "I" and refocus it - either change the pronouns to something like "you," "they," "E," "Xe," or remove the need for pronouns completely.  What does this refocusing do to the poem?  Does it reinforce the main ideas, emphasize the imagery, or distance the reader?  Idea Two - If you don't have a poem to start with, then use this prompt as a chance to craft something new that's not from the "I" point of view.  Explore how the same poem changes if you craft it from different points of view.

Not sure which old poem I will choose, but of course it will be something in the sci-fi, horror, or fantasy genres.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: "I" GNU Free Documentation License, Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Four Poems in The Were-Traveler

My poem 'Finish the Job' is a macabre
look at a mummy in the making.
Time is doing that thing it does where it flies by so fast I can't keep up.  I've realized that I had some poems published in December and never blogged about them here!  Since this is indeed already April, and National Poetry Month, I think it is appropriate to call your attention to the issue (which I think is a good read.)  It is Issue #19 - Speculative Poetry, over at The Were-Traveler.  I have four poems in this issue that is jam-packed with 71 poems of the sci-fi, fantasy, horror, science, or just plain strange variety.

The four poems I have appearing in the issue are:  Finish the Job, Token of Affection, Flight School, and The Perfect Poem … Tribute.  For three of these poems the editor selected a piece of art or other image to highlight the poem.  So if you haven't had your fix of speculative poetry today, pop on by and give them a read!

Image Credit:  Mummy, Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Use 1.2

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #11 - Breaking the Rules

The Moon as seen from the International Space Station,
hanging over the limb of the Earth.  Not your standard
view of the Moon - this image evokes something new.
A common bit of advice in writing is "Learn the Rules, Break the Rules."  Something very fresh can happen when we seem to be following along a known path, and then go somewhere unexpected.  So what are some of the "rules" of poetry, if there is such a thing?  Here are a few you may have heard:
  • Don't write cliches.  Cliched poems include poetry about the Moon, your dog, and your breakup.
  • Don't use epigraphs.  These are those bits of quotes or song lyrics at the top of your writing showing your inspiration source. 
  • Don't use a word in all capitals.  This is SHOUTING in your poem.
  • Don't write "doggerel" forms like Limericks or "Greeting Card" verse.
  • Don't break classic forms.  For example, don't change the standard rhyme scheme of a sonnet.
  • Always be honest.  The standard wisdom is that the truth resonates with the reader.
Prompt #11:  Write a poem that breaks a "rule" of poetry writing.  Use an epigraph, write a Limerick, or tell a lie.  Why did you choose to break this particular "rule?"  It what way does breaking this rule give you as the writer some additional freedom?  It what ways does breaking the rule impose new limits?  As you craft your poem, look for ways to use this broken rule to bring something unexpected and new into the work.

There is no "For something more specific ..." today!  Just go and break rules.

Of course I'll be breaking the rules with some aspect of sci-fi, horror, or fantasy.  Maybe it is time for yet another poem about the Moon ...

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Moon, NASA

Monday, April 10, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #10 - The Mundane

The mundane spoon.
Where can this concept lead?
Consider the spoon.  It is a simple, everyday object.  It does not seem to have much about it that one might consider poetic.  But there are many different ways to consider the humble spoon ... how about 'spooning' as sleeping next to someone, a souvenir spoon collection,  a spoon used as a percussion instrument, or 'spoon feeding' someone information?  And of course there are strange crossovers like the 'spork.'

There is a paradox in poetry - the more specific and concrete the language and imagery, the more universal and accessible the poem becomes.  A poem that is more general and less specific is less relatable.  Therefore, writing about the mundane creates pathways for the reader to enter and engage with the poem.   

Here are a few other thoughts about the spoon ...

"I was born with a plastic spoon." - Pete Townshend
"Gag me with a spoon." - Valley talk, attributed to Moon Unit Zappa among many others ...
"Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife." - Not an example of irony, by Alanis Morisette
"Spoon!" - Battle cry of comic hero The Tick.

Prompt #10:  Write a poem about a spoon (or other specific, concrete, mundane object).  Consider some of the ideas above about the spoon, and others like taking medicine, measuring ingredients, or stirring tea.  Consider what it is made out of, what it holds (or once held) and if it still matches the set.  Craft your poem to be as specific as possible about your mundane object.

To make the prompt more detailed, you can write a sonnet about your mundane object, and put a little surprise about it in your final couplet.

Of course I'll be wondering what mundane aspect of sci-fi, horror, or fantasy I need to consider.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Dessert Spoon CC 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, April 9, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #9 - Jargon

A slice of the gorgeous meteorite Esquel, with its clasts of
gem-like peridot (olivine).  Meteorites are often studied by
Cosmochemists to learn more about the early Solar System.
Continuing along the idea of language, our next prompt deals with "jargon."  Jargon is a unique vocabulary that is commonly associated with a job or discipline.  For example, let's look at some of the words found in the discipline of Cosmochemistry.  There we find words and phrases such as:  ternary diagram, cosmic abundances, chondritic, CRE age, presolar grains, and mass spectrometry.  These words all have a very specific meaning to me, and help me understand more precisely what another scientist is trying to say.  However, if I were not familiar with Cosmochemistry, many of these terms would mean nothing, or worse, create misconceptions.  Jargon can include slang or an in-group language.  It can separate those who are included from those who are not.  Or it can include more people by attempting to specifically clarify meanings.

Prompt #9:  Write a poem that uses at least one word of jargon from a single discipline or source.  Are you using this word to be more specific, that is, to better communicate an idea?  Or are you using it to create a lack of understanding and distance?  Is your use of jargon one that creates an air of authority or expertise around your poem?  Is the language used to protect and shield, or to open and reveal?  Consider these questions when crafting your poem.

For something more specific, and a little bit of fun, use a rhyme scheme in your poem where one or more jargon words are rhymed.  Need some additional fun?  When crafting your poem, use a discipline with which you are completely unfamiliar, so that is requires some research to write.

The fields of science fiction, horror, and fantasy have their own jargon.  So perhaps I'll look there for a bit of inspiration, myself.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Esquel  CC 2.0 Wikimedia Commons