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All About Writing

Archive for the 'Writing Highlight' Category

03 February
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06 January
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Advice For Writers

macbook coffee, originally uploaded by damiengay33.

Here is a great link with advice for writers. It truly is superb. Read and pass it on. http://ow.ly/T7YY

04 January
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27 December
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05 December
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How To Mind Map A Book

Here is a really good site on mind-mapping a book. I didn’t want to lose the link. In fact, I wanted to share it. I agree this is a great way to organize writing, whether it’s an article, or a book. There are other terrific posts on her page.

I use mind-mapping in my writing and my classes, too.

Enjoy!

Here is the link: http://ow.ly/1uZkT

05 November
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Book Cover Art

Ancient Window visions medley, originally uploaded by jsbanks42.

Australian writer Joanna Penn is the owner of the Creative Penn, a blog site and a Twitter ID. Here, on her blog she interviews several book cover designers, and pros. Some great information.

This photo called “Ancient Windows Visions Medley,” is a photo that took 30 minutes to make, using fractals, book cover scan, New Zealand mountains, Scottish castle doorways and windeows. Beautiful.

Here is the link to the Creative Penn.http://ow.ly/SRz7

31 October
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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

17 Days Until National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), originally uploaded by smittenkittenorig.

Okay. You’ve got your pens, your journals, your large rolls of butcher paper to cover the walls to write on with your fancy felt-tip pens when inspiration strikes. You’ve got casseroles, coffee cards, writing dates filled out in your planner like dance cards. Well, get at it. At midnight, after trick-or-treaters are scrubbed and jammied, crazy people all over the world will inhale their coffee, tea, and begin a month of writing insanity. Go for it.

15 April
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Guest Blogger: Grace Curtis Interviews Poet Kathy Fagan

LipAn Interview with Poet, Kathy Fagan

by Grace Curtis

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Recently, I took a close look at the poetry of Kathy Fagan.  She is the editor of The Journal, http://english.osu.edu/research/journals/thejournal/default.cfm, the literary magazine of The Ohio State University, where she is a full-time professor of English.  Lip, Eastern Washington University Press, http://www.ewu.edu/ewupress/poetry/lip.htm,

is her fourth book of poetry.  Fagan’s work in The Charm, her third book, is thoroughly refreshing.  It’s funny, insightful, inventive and lush.  It is all the things that make reading a poet’s work cover to cover, a wonderful experience.  Following are some thoughtful answers to questions I posed to her about her new book,  Lip, her writing process, the writing life and her sources of inspiration.

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You can find her new book, Lip, at:  http://www.amazon.com/Lip-Kathy-Fagan/dp/1597660493/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240249260&sr=1-1

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GC Tell us about your new book, Lip.

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KF As the jacket copy says, Lip is an insolent kind of book—one reader called it “gnarly,” which I like—filled with primarily female speakers who alternately rage, praise, sing, and meditate. I’ve always worked inside and outside all kinds of poetic structures, and this book is no exception to that—there are prose poems, pantoums, sonnet-like poems, innovative forms, narratives, lyrics, experimental utterances—but I’ve discovered that another abiding interest of mine is voice and persona. I like to think of Lip as a little purgatory of voices, an opera of sorts. In fact, the manuscript began with the title Poems for a Small Stage, and many of the poems take passages from other texts for their titles, epigraph-titles, so to speak. I wanted my speakers to be engaged with other speakers and texts, as in a stage production.

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GC Can you talk a little about your “writing life.”  How do you fit in all the things you do?  Teaching, editing The Journal, home, family, and writing?

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KF It used to be that writing took a backseat to everything else. No more. I don’t have any magic formula for how that happened; it just did. Age maybe. A deepening commitment. I love teaching and doing The Journal; it’s my way of socializing, my way of being a writer among writers. Since I’m shy and no good at schmoozing, I communicate via the poem that needs workshopping or editing, and that seems to work to create community for me. These activities also help to create structure in my life, which I’ve discovered I very much require in order to be productive. Of course, the demands of job and home and family often overwhelm—that’s life. My work finds a place among those other elements because without it everything else becomes meaningless.

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GC Can you talk a little about teaching and also about editing The Journal, the literary magazine for The Ohio State University?  Do those things compliment your writing?  Is it difficult to stay on task with your writing even beyond the amount of time other things take?  Does it help or hinder your own creativity?

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KF Maybe I just answered this question? Yes, it’s difficult to stay on task. This year especially, because the book appeared and I’m in the middle of some intense work on the next book, some of my ordinarily passable organizational skills with regard to the magazine have suffered. I try not to allow my teaching to slide. Everybody knows that life is cyclical; sometimes your focus is one place, sometimes some place else. It’s true that writers with academic careers can get either distracted or tunnel-visioned or both; my sense is that most folks are doing the best they can to eke out a living and do their art.

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GC I recently read your book, The Charm.  It was wonderful.  I liked the concept of the charms in poems scattered throughout.  It is such a nice unifying approach.  How did you come up with that concept for the book?

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KF Thanks, Grace. I like that book, too. The book was, in fact, “charmed,” I think, in the sense that the poems were composed fairly quickly—or quickly for me; I’m a slow writer—and it was published nearly the moment it was finished. Zoo Press, now famously defunct, gave me a very beautiful book for which I’ll always be grateful. My current publisher is hoping to reprint it some time, but there are still original copies floating around.

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Anyway, to your question: I’d written over a long period of time a book of magnificent loss, a book of elegies called MOVING & ST RAGE, and The Charm felt like an antidote to the losses in M&ST R. At least to me. I had so much fun writing the poems. I realize now that many of them are just as dark as the poems in the previous book, but it was liberating for me to play with various exercises—the ekphrastic, the translitic, the alphabet poems, the haiku, the Egyptian afterlife poems—and not be focused on subject matter, as I had been in MOVING & ST RAGE. As for the charm concept, I loved the many meanings of the word, from birds to spells to charm bracelets. But the heart of it is in this story: M&ST R is dedicated to a mentor and friend of mine who died in 1991. She had given me a charm to wear, a friendship coin half, and left for me her half when she died. I wear them together now. That was the true beginning of the obsession.

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GC Your poems feel so natural.  One friend of mine described them as ‘organic,’ meaning they feel so easy yet so engaging and wonderfully put together.  And, they seem to spring forth from the ordinary; home, family, the neighborhood, childhood.  Can you discuss the source of your inspiration?  Your poetic project?

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KF My first teacher was Philip Levine. He used to say we had more interesting things in our pockets than in our poems, and he was right. That’s stuck with me, the “no ideas but in things” notion that he was passing down to us. Like Phil, my background is fairly modest. I was the first in my family to go to college, for instance. Nobody knew any writers. But the family was Irish Catholic, first-generation, so we were surrounded by story tellers and dancers and singers. I was a miserable failure at all of that. Poetry was my default art form. Yet I find myself in middle age wanting poetry to dance and sing and tell stories and just be. I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin, but I want poems to be.

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GC I noticed frequent mentions of dreams and nightmares in your poems in The Charm.  Can you talk about that a little, as a source of inspiration?

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KF Childhood was a great source of material for that book. And childhood is scary, no matter if yours was good or bad, right? I mean, we begin as tiny defenseless creatures. That’s got to be terrifying in and of itself. Then there’s nursery rhymes and Disney films. It’s awful. I found myself turning back to childhood memory, even the toughest stuff, with some tenderness while writing The Charm.

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GC One of the things I enjoy so much about your work is your humor.  It is clear that you have a great sense of humor that pervades your work.  I love the humor in “Charm to Avoid Dying a Second Death”, “Misfortune Cookies” and in so many others.  It is so refreshing.  Can you talk about the humor in your poetry?

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KF Again, this goes back to the horrible sadness of MOVING & ST RAGE, both a response to that sadness and the acknowledgment at some point in my aging process that as heartbreaking as all this mortal life is, it’s also freaking hilarious. I think it’s important to acknowledge that in art at some level.

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GC You have some wonder ekphrastic poems.  Are you often inspired by art, music other literature?

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KF References to other literature goes with the territory of being a writer, but mostly I’m a sight slut. I love to look at stuff. Art is good, scenery is good, people are good. And I adore music, all kinds, in a completely ignorant way. I’m an idiot about music and enjoy myself immensely listening to it. The project I’m currently at work on is mostly about trees. I’m only happy when I’m walking and seeing trees these days, and almost all my writing is coming out of that.

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GC What advice do you have for new writers?  Submit or not?  How much?  How often?  Journaling and so forth.

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KF Until very recently I kept a daily journal. Now I carry a little notebook around with me just for quick sketches or impressions. I’ve used a small tape recorder. People do what they need to. But my best advice for new writers is to read. One has to train oneself to really hear poetry. As Eliot says, poetry communicates before it is understood. The problem with poetry, which is also its beauty, is that it is rhythm mediated through language. In other words, we’re forced to use our rational brains when really all we want to do is groove to the sounds the words are making. Music affects us bodily. Language affects us intellectually. Therein lies the tension of poetry. Some folks avoid that. For me, it’s one of the best ways of knowing I’m alive.

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As for poe-biz, I say avoid it for as long as possible. When you’re ready to send work out, find magazines and presses that publish work most like your own. Again, that requires reading and lots of it. Publishing poetry and writing poetry are two very different pursuits. Everybody enjoys a little public recognition, but learning how to build your self-esteem by the discipline of writing alone is, in the long run, going to do a writer a whole lot more good than looking for the little ego-strokes journal publications provide.

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Kathy Fagan’s newest collection is Lip (Eastern Washington UP, 2009). She is also the author of the National Poetry Series selection The RaftMOVING & ST RAGEThe Charm (Zoo, 2002). Fagan is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Ohioana Library, and the Ohio Arts Council. A former director of the MFA Program at The Ohio State University, she is currently Professor of English and Editor of The Journal. (Dutton, 1985), the Vassar Miller Prize winner (Univ of North Texas, 1999).

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Grace Curtis is an MFA student in poetry at Ashland University ,Ashland, Ohio .  She is a poet and is interning with The Antioch Review.

17 March
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Link of the Week: Sage Cohen’s New Book — Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Paperback)

Sage Cohen's New Book

Today is the launch date for Sage Cohen’s new book Writing the Life Poetic; An Invitation to Reading and Writing Poetry (Writer’s Digest). To spike her book numbers, she’s asking poetry lovers, or those who love poetry lovers to buy her book today (pre-order), March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. To order, just click here on the link. The book will be sent to you in about a week if you order today.

Good luck, Sage!

08 February
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Link of the Week – Northwest Author Series Events and Information

I Love You This Way…, originally uploaded by cresk.

Here is the link of the week,Christina Katz’s Northwest Author Series. She’s put together a lecture and article series featuring the best writers of thePacific Northwest. I’ll be featuring Christina’s work inthe coming few weeks, as she has two books out with Writer’s Digest, “Writer Mama” and “Get Known Before the Book Deal”.

Christina is also the founder of Writers on the Rise. Check back for more information about these resource goldmines for writers.

Enjoy!

~Kerri