Saturday, December 31, 2022
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Greetings all –
It’s that time again. We almost didn’t get the newsletter
written because we just got back from a trip to Paris.
You know what, y’all there is not as much to do there as
we were led to believe. The highlights of our trip were the catfish dinner at
Uncle Billy’s Downtown Eatery, the Holly Jolly Festival and Electric Christmas
Parade and the Breakfast and Bowling With Santa event.
Ruthie is bugging me to say that Beverly and Judy have
both been in bowling leagues so it was unfair that they won the trophy.
Next year we’re going to Nashville.
The Beverly report:
Beverly and her blue-hair posse, V and B, went on their
annual trip to Gatlinburg in May and things went a little sideways. The ladies
claim they got lost on the way to a local production of The Greatest Story Ever
Told and wound up at a still on the side of a mountain in backwoods Tennessee.
Yeah, we believe you, sure.
Everything turned out okay and if you see an episode of Moonshiners
where Tickle is having three elderly women taste the apple pie flavor, remember
– they did not know there was alcohol in that.
The Judy report:
Everything is okay in Judyland. She’s living the dream in
Florida. Taking pictures of the beach.
In June she, Bonnie and Liz went to the Dali Museum to be
immersed in Van Gogh. She got a little confused about things, though and had to
spend a lot of time in the hospital getting her ear sown back on.
The good news is she had a lot of time to write and any
day now y’all should be hearing about the publication of her best-selling
novel. If it comes out and you read it, don’t go getting mad because she used
that time when you skipped church and went skinny dipping. No one will know it
The Tim report:
Tim and his family have spent their time productively,
building a new house. They mostly like to sit on the sidelines eating nachos and pretending they don’t know the rest of us.
The Tony report:
Big changes for Tony and Wayne. They’ve left southern
California. They bought a condo on the opposite side of the state from Judy
(I’m sure that wasn’t intentional) and are making it livable. If they could only
find where Wayne hid the modem and router so the movers wouldn’t steal it,
they’d be all set.
Both of them are retired now. Of course, in this family
retired means working more than ever. But I’m sure they’ll fit in time for a
cruise at some point.
And yes, they have gone back to cruising even though Tony
“accidentally” booked them on that nude cruise two years ago.
As far as the young’uns are concerned – they are going to
have to write their own newsletter because I can’t keep up with them.
Sorry I didn’t mail this. I didn’t have time. Thanks for
coming on my blog to read it. And I’ve disabled the comments because T has
never forgiven me for the post I wrote about her stomping around in white go-go
boots singing These Boots Are Made For Walking so many times that someone broke
her record in half.
Y’all have a fun holiday and I hope 2023 is good to you!
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Rebel Anthologies has a chapbook of several poets out now. It’s titled Fresh Voices and Visons. It’s available on Amazon. It includes six pages of my work, everything from angry rants to observations about nature and people.
Regarding poetry, something has been niggling the back corner of my brain.
I’ve recently subscribed to a newsletter that puts a new poem in my email every day. I’m not going to name the newsletter because of what I have to say here.
I’m bothered by how often the ‘poems’ look like a block of prose.
For me, a poem has a structure. It can have aesthetic elements not usually found in prose. And, though it appears to have fallen out of favor with adult poetry, sometimes it rhymes.
Prose is storytelling. Poetry is expressing a thought or thoughts on a subject. Poetry can tell a story especially if it is a memory.
While I want to write novels, prose can be a struggle for me.
Poetry, however, is part of my core being. I thoroughly enjoy writing it. I can play with punctuation. There are a multitude of recognized structures or I can create my own.
It starts with a thought I want to express. I begin to write and I realize – this could take the form of haiku or sonnet or epigram or ballad or a concrete poem.
Recently two things came together in time. One, I discovered tanka poems and how much I loved writing them. And two, my second husband, who has been my friend for the more than twenty years we’ve been divorced, turned sixty.
So I wrote a tanka about him for a birthday present of sorts.
you sat in our clothes
basket drunk regaling me
with tales of gods and
goddesses your silver tongue
explaining Shiva’s blue throat
It follows tanka structure of:line 1 – 5 syllables,
line 2 – 7 syllables,
line 3 – 5 syllables,
lines 4 and 5 – 7 syllables.
Adding up to 31 syllables.
Writing a poem frequently involves counting syllables or lines, engaging something else that I enjoy; simple math.
It can be used to express the spirituality that is a comfort to some. I can listen when Thich Naht Hanh reads his poetry and my anger shifts to an overall sense of wellbeing. He says:
Mary Oliver’s words remind me not to waste a moment of my life.
These words: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?”
And these words: “You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting./ You only have to let the soft animal of your body/ love what it loves.”
And then there’s E.E. Cummings whose poetry defies all rules, makes me smile and go back to read it again and again.
Or Shel Silverstein, who makes every banned book list, for reasons I can not fathom but whose poetry makes me laugh outright.
Prose is prose and I respect it and take a great deal of pleasure in reading it. But, for me, a poem is something else. So, if I write a block of prose, I call it flash fiction. And if I write a limerick or a Cherita, I call it a poem.
When I read this blogpost to be critiqued - someone asked me - why does this bother me? I don't have a good answer except that the way my mind works - if prose can be poetry then poetry can be prose and if that is the case why do we waste two words? Why not just use the word prose or the word poetry?
Of course, there are authors out there who muddy the waters. Arundhati Roy, for example. Her prose is often poetry. The language in her novel “The God Of Small Things” has a sing-songy, poetic quality. The same with Salman Rushdie and his novel “Haroun and the Sea Of Stories”.
I’m going to leave you with a taste of a universe we haven’t discussed here: slam poetry. If you don’t know it – dip your toe in with this youtube recording of Harry Baker’s slam that won the World Slam Poetry competition in 2012. It’s titled “59”. It’s genius and though I would like to say, I could have written that, I would be lying.
*Critique suggested I quote the poets listed here. It's too complex to do that with these two poets. You might not know Mumai Abu Jamal or Leonard Peltier or John Trudell or Dennis Banks and why Alice Walker wants them freed. You might not know the significance of Rabbit that Joy Harjo speaks of in Mvskoke world. I would need to write additional blogposts on these things and they are my stories to read about and listen to - they aren't my stories to tell.
Sunday, December 11, 2022
On November 29th I posted a blog titled: Tips on Critiquing the Romance Genre
One of the basic points I made was when I read romance and I am being critiqued it often feels like criticism for the genre - not necessarily for me.
Recently on Jenny Crusie's blog she threw out an invitation for what she calls a 'questionable' blogpost in which she will answer writer's questions.
I commented this:
ME: "I have a questionable. Is there a good source for figuring out / learning about genres and what is required to be a certain genre?"..."Is there a basic text or article or anything that would aid me in furthering my education?"
Jenny commented in response. I am paraphrasing because I don't think it's legal to quote word for word long passages. (Although I did tell her I was doing this.)
Genres are fluid and genre labels only serve the purpose of sorting books for libraries, or bookstores, etc.
Direct Quote: "The lines between those are blurred because people write stories, not genres."
THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE END OF IT BUT - other people commented and then I commented again.
ME: "...What frustrates me is – we had a 20 something year old coming (to Pinellas Writers) for a while and he was writing a thing like Red Dwarf – I don’t know what you would call that genre – but critiquers kept saying things like – this or that is random – and you’re writing too fast… Everything they were criticizing was supposed to be that way. In fact, it was really good and funny. But there were 10 people saying the same things and only 3 of us getting it, so he stopped coming."
She gave examples - paraphrasing:
Murderbot by Martha Wells is science fiction but many people who are not SF fans read it based on recommendations from commenters and loved it.
One of the books I wrote with Bob Mayer, Agnes and the Hitman, is a romance novel but people who don't normally read romance liked it.
Harry Potter appealed to people who don't like kids lit.
People who don't like cartoons wept over Up.
Direct Quote: "If you have to explain your story, it's not a good story. It's a draft."
Paraphrasing: For critique you hand over your story. You don't explain. If it's romance and someone says they don't like this lovey-dovey stuff - they aren't your audience. On the other hand if they don't believe your happily ever after - that these people are in love - you need to work on your story.
Paraphrasing: Some people who read Welcome To Temptation considered Phin abusive. With Bet me some thought Cal was insensitive. Fast Women critics felt Gabe was remote.
SIDE NOTE: I have read all of those books many times and loved Phin, Cal and Gabe.
Paraphrasing Jenny: Those characters provoked those readers and those novels were never going to work for them.
Readers are not wrong when something doesn't work for them.
If the critique is happening before publication - a writer needs to decide - make changes to accommodate those readers or don't because... Direct Quote: "those aspects are important to the story you need to write."
The take-away for me is - write the story I want to write regardless of genre. Read it to be critiqued without any defense. Decide - is this critique because this person isn't my audience or am I failing to get my story across to my audience. Rewrite or don't accordingly.