Branding for Writers: Why You Don’t Need to Embrace a Single Identity

Guest Blog Post by Lisa Marie Basile

Lisa Marie Basile Photo

Here’s a pic of me being many things — a panda, a lush, a poet, a bridesmaid, and an epic dresser.

Every single one of us as creators is asked to select a genre, select a marketing angle, select a box, select an identity. But what if — and I think this is true for us all — we are many things.

I write heavy lyrical essays & poems about grief, family, & desire.

BUT I ALSO write commercial nonfiction.

I have contracts with indie pubs and a mass-market publisher.

I like being flirty and sexy in pictures, and I like drinking and dancing all night. But I’m also fairly shy and private. I have loads of acquaintances and very few close friends, on purpose.

You can do, be, and work on it all.

You’re dimensional.

Fuck the little boxes.

I think the problem is that we’re supposed to be a ‘brand,’ many of us writers. I ask myself: Are you a poet? Are you a chronic illness advocate? Are you a witch? Are you an essayist? Are you a foster care youth advocate? How do they intersect?

I’m everything, all at once. I don’t need to plaster my platforms in one filter, one voice, one story, one angle — and neither do you. I can write about grief this week and candle magic the next. I can lead a workshop on ritual and then I can publish a long-form essay on health. I can post a stupid selfie and then a picture of me at a workshop.

None of this takes away from the all.

I believe in being intersectional in every way possible; I believe my interest in magic comes from my trauma, grief, health issues and family past. They’re not divorced, they never will be.

My poetry is found in all of my work. Poetry is my voice. My focus on trauma recovery is in all of my work, no matter the topic.

The next time you sit down and think, “who am I?” or “what’s my branding strategy,” I urge you to think about the beautiful magic of dimensionality, of how your layers make your work extra delicious, of how in presenting and working in and being the many layers of ourselves we are presenting something authentic.

I can be spiritual without posting photos of my altar. I can be a poet without constantly publishing poetry. I can be an artist and a strategist. I can be an advocate and a weirdo.

I know it’s hard because in this era, to be a writer is also to be a marketer to some extent — and maybe we never bargained for that. And it’s hard because when we’re dedicated to anything, we have to have an avatar to make it valid. It’s fucking hard managing a second self online that is supposed to accurately and perfectly represent you. The human brain wasn’t designed for this.

But you can be and do everything, too. Just keep doing you.

About the Author:

Lisa Marie Basile is the founding creative director of Luna Luna Magazine — a digital diary of literature and magical living. She is the author of “Light Magic for Dark Times,” a modern collection of inspired rituals and daily practices, as well as the forthcoming book, “The Magical Writing Grimoire: Use the Word as Your Wand for Magic, Manifestation & Ritual.” She’s written for Refinery 29, The New York Times, Self, Chakrubs, Marie Claire, Narratively, Catapult, Sabat Magazine, Healthline, Bust, Hello Giggles, Grimoire Magazine, and more. Lisa Marie has taught writing and ritual workshops at HausWitch in Salem, MA, Manhattanville College, and Pace University. She earned a Masters’s degree in Writing from The New School and studied literature and psychology as an undergraduate at Pace University.

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Nine Simple Truths About Poetry Manuscript Contests

Guest Blog Post by Sonia Greenfield 

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1. The award money, when you are done with the process and have won a contest, will probably not cover the overall cost of repeatedly submitting the manuscript. Some folks are geniuses right out of the box. Most of us have to edit our way in the direction of perfection.

2. For each contest cycle, you will think that the manuscript is done, and you will submit it with an outlay of anywhere from $100 to $300. If you do not win, you may figure out that what you thought was finished has still more room for improvement. That your editorial process was not finished. And this may go on for several seasons, because knowing the fitness of your own poems can be as difficult as assessing one’s own face or body in the mirror.

3. If you keep at it— this process of remaking and investment, your book will win a contest and/or be published, but you have to be down with the evolution and expense. But YOU. CAN. WIN.

4. Some big name publishers like more experimental poetry, some more narrative. Don’t waste your $25 dollars submitting your manuscript to a publishing house just because they’re well known if there’s no way your poetic vision aligns with their catalogue of titles. Better to shoot for a smaller house, because chances are…

5. You’re going to be responsible for most of the PR, touring, marketing, etc. anyway. Get comfortable with the idea that the writing you’ve created, the gift of it, may reach a smaller audience than you had hoped for.

6. But it’s okay if your gift reaches a more intimate audience. Friends, family, poets you admire, etc. These are the people you’re most in conversation with anyway.

7. Because if you were hoping that the publication of a first or second manuscript is going to get you a creative writing teaching job at a small liberal arts school in a charming town on The Hudson— it might, but you have to be fully invested in The Hustle, which means, probably, working the conferences, social media, etc. like you were born to be a Slytherin (not inherently bad; just ambitious).

8. If that sounds exhausting and not invigorating, then remember that your life and career do not have to drive toward that one, narrow goal. That sometimes you can be happy divorcing poetry from professional ambition.

9. Still, it is such that you can put out a beautiful book— a fucking masterpiece that should be seen by the world— but it will be modestly purchased and distributed. And it can feel disheartening. Buy yourself lots of copies and continue to read from them as you travel the world. With poetry, it will never be about the quantitative, but the qualitative, and your writing can continue to affect individuals deeply. Can cut them to the quick ten years down the line, but one or two people at a time. Think of them when you’re fretting over the art that you have made.

This little meditation is dedicated to Pauline Uchmanowicz, my wonderful editor with Codhill Press, who so carefully tended to my first book of poems. I found out yesterday that she passed away suddenly in a tragic accident in her home.

Ultimately, what matters is that you continue chasing down your own poems one at a time and that you keep putting them in the world. Don’t stop creating.

About the Author:

Sonia Greenfield was born and raised in Peekskill, New York, and her book, Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market, won the 2014 Codhill Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of places, including in the 2018 and 2010 Best American Poetry, Antioch Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, and Willow Springs. Her chapbook, American Parable, won the 2017 Autumn House Press/Coal Hill Review prize and her collection of prose poems, Letdown, is forthcoming in 2020 with White Pine Press as part of the Marie Alexander Series. She lives with her husband and son in Hollywood where she edits the Rise Up Review and co-directs the Southern California Poetry Festival.

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Writeliving Interview: John Domini

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John Domini is a dazzling writer and one of my first Facebook friends when I started connecting with writers I admire. I was thrilled to get the chance to meet John at AWP in Portland this past year to get a signed copy of his inventive collection of linked short stories MOVIEOLA!, a dizzying, literary tour de force following the foibles and fables of Hollywood with a lens that zooms in and out to capture the absurdity of life and our obsessions with modern Hollywood.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to read John’s timely novel The Color Inside a Melon, that came out earlier this summer on Dzanc Books (one of my favorite presses). Part literary noir, part detective story and set in John’s beloved Naples, The Color Inside a Melon addresses the issues of our age head on: race, class, and violence. The real mystery being unwound in the piazzas and dark underbelly of old Italy is humanity’s true nature and bottomless capacity to love and hate one another. Please consider giving it a read.

– Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

For starters, why don’t I mention someone else featured here on WriteLiving, namely, Ellen Bass? I’ve been reading her poetry since the late 1970s, when we were both in Boston. It’s an inspiration to see her late-career breakthrough to new success. That said, my constellation of influences stretches across the sky: a long shadow like Dante, a recent mindblower like Colette, a former prof like John Barth, an early crush like Grace Paley… and Kafka too. On this Naples project, and The Color Inside a Melon in particular, I developed new influences as I went along, like Elena Ferrante and Roberto Saviano.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

Creative work is so idiosyncratic, it’s different not only for each maker, but also often for each new project. Insight, therefore, proves elusive; what’s good for the goose may be toxic for Forrest Gander. On the three Naples novels I did a lot of freewriting by hand, filling small notebooks with both hard research and imaginative drafts. Once I shifted my materials into word-processing, onscreen, I can’t ell you how many drafts I went through, since I wasn’t always composing sequentially. One of the earliest finished sections of The Color Inside, published separately in Web del Sol, was actually from the novels climax, and completed three years before the whole.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter?

As it happens, my writing’s been praised for its voice, early and late. Yet I’d argue that your subject, what Melville called your “mighty theme”— this dictates voice. Once you have your project, it sets up a way of seeing, a frame of mind, which in turn generates a tone and rhythm.

Your most recent novel The Color Inside a Melon combines elements of a literary and mystery novel. How did you approach writing a novel that’s cross genre and also puts issues of immigration and refugees front and center?

This question too needs to be turned around, I’d say. The Color Inside... is fundamentally a social novel, an in-the-round portrait of a complicated human hive in Southern Italy. As you say, the closest focus is on one part of that community, the new African immigrants to Naples and nearby, but the story won’t work unless these are seen as part of a multifarious whole. It’s all about many fingers knitting and unknitting, the outsiders struggling for a place and the insiders exacting their tolls. Such stuff takes us inevitably to abuse, to illegality, even to bloodletting.

To put the point another way, you can’t render Naples whole-cloth unless you stitch in the Camorra and its abuses— and I don’t see how such a rendering excludes whatever is meant by “literary.” Doesn’t Balzac include crime and mystery in Cousin Bette? Or, more recently, Marlon James in A Brief History of Seven Killings? A social novel is still a novel, and an artist of sensibility faces the same challenges as ever. There’s got to be empathy, subtlety, even when writing about the backroom slaughter of an illegal immigrant.

Your protagonists struggle at times with reality, and your prose, sometimes surreal, unearths these fissures of the mind. How do you juggle the psychological exploration of your characters while still driving the plot / narrative of your fiction forward?

Questions about character, how it’s created and sustained, dovetail neatly with my last point. If my “immigrant success story,” Risto, is to function within a complex story like The Color Inside.., he’s got to generate empathy even while making sketchy moves. He’s got to reveal subtlety even in the midst of extreme action. Seems to me that the crucial tool in bringing off such combinations is dialog, by which I mean not just the words said.

Of course the conversation needs to have a natural bounce and stutter, even when it’s an English version of Italian palaver (with other languages tossed in, now and again). But besides that, effective dialog must consider just how much gets revealed, and to whom. Two speakers are always picking their way through a no-man’s-land, before arriving at something they agree on as the truth. Such negotiations have a direct impact of driving the plot, naturally, and for Risto none matters so much as those he hammers out with Paola, his Neapolitan wife, nominally “white.” If her Somali husband’s success has any value, that must be coined in their marriage—and Paola must demonstrates smarts and spine to match her husband’s. I strove to make her as canny as the great women figures of Naguib Mahfouz, in his trilogy of the Cairo slums.

What’s are you working on now that you’ve completed your Naples trilogy? Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Actually, I’m still working with Naples, though in an alternative way. After a good deal more exploratory writing, including what appear to be the elements of a strange new novel, I fell into a memoir. The ancient Mediterranean seaport, I discovered, demanded one more treatment, a non-fiction work or as close as I could make it.  I’m writing about how Naples changed me, indeed saved me, in a time of adversity. Of course, “adversity” for a comfy white American doesn’t seem especially rugged. Still, in midlife, well past 40, I found my 20-year marriage dead and my teaching career in tatters; I’d published one book years earlier and had little promise for anything to come— indeed, I had my doubts I was any sort of writer at all. Insofar as I’ve found an answer since, with several more books out and regular writing for a number of publications, it’s thanks in large part to Naples, my father’s home.

At my lowest point, I began returning to the old city, traveling on the cheap and staying with family. I kept on going back, winning grants and getting assignments, and now I’m writing about the personal transformations brought about by the place. My title is The Archeology of a Good Ragù, and my emphasis is on the place, not little old me. Good work always strives against others, and for this text the antagonist is the usual American take on Italy, as an exotic background for the main player’s happiness. I wanted to avoid what Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat, Pray, Love— making Naples all about her

Have you read anything recently that really got you excited?

Lately I’ve been terrifically excited— moved, frightened, outraged— by the novels of Khaled Kahlifa. I read him in translation, of course; he’s Syrian, still hanging on somehow in Damascus, and his great subject is the breakdown of his country’s society, one of the most sophisticated cultures in the world, under the brutal regime of Assad. His portrayals always extend to whole families and neighborhoods, everyone caught up in hapless flailing, all terribly alive while also casting long shadows across the future of the fat and happy West. The voyage of his latest, Death is Hard Work, makes McCarthy’s The Road look like a trip to Disneyland.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

Most days I get in a happy half-hour of singing and strumming. It’s all about the cowboy chords; with enough hammering, just about any number that comes to mind can be shoehorned into C, F, G, and Am.

About the Author:

The Color Inside a Melon, published this summer, is John Domini‘s fourth novel. With blurbs from Salman Rushdie and Marlon James, the book is set in Naples, Italy, and completes a loose trilogy. Domini also has three books of stories, the latest MOVIEOLA!, which J.C. Hallman, in The Millions, called “a new shriek for a new century.” The fiction has appeared in Paris Review, non-fiction in The New York Times, and grants include an NEA. He has held long-term appointments at Harvard, Northwestern, and other universities, and lives in Des Moines.

 

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Writeliving Interview: Diane Seuss

Diane Suess Photo

After a small hiatus, Writeliving is back with an interview from fellow Michigander and powerhouse writer Diane Seuss. Four-Legged Girl was my favorite poetry book of 2015 and I was blown away by her lush, hypnotic, mythic poemscapes. I highly recommend Diane’s work and am thrilled to be able to share insights from her writing life.

– Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

I could reel off a list of writers who have taught me a great deal (Dickinson, Clifton, D.A. Powell, etc.) but probably most accurately there are two significant influences—my mentor, poet Conrad (Con) Hilberry, and my mom. When we first met, externally at least, Con was everything I was not—quiet, private, gentle, formal in his aesthetic proclivities. He was the son of a college president and raised in suburban Detroit. In the psychological (and perhaps conventional) sense, he functioned as the father I didn’t have: he was someone and something to walk toward. He was supportive and encouraging: he saw me, and he accepted me and cheered me on for all of the ways in which I was a writer who seemed to be very different from him. He defied the cliché of the leering older male poet in the era in which I grew up. He was respectful, boundaried, sane. He did all of the right things—gave me books, helped me go to college, urged me to send out work—but more importantly he was the right thing. My mother influences my work in so many ways. I could, and probably will, write a book on the subject. Like Con, she defied all of the stereotypes about women and mothers in a time in which such defiance was not the norm. She also was and is a divine storyteller. She preserves the history of her time and place—the rural Midwest, born in 1929—via narrative. Both Con and my mother had a profound impact on my poems’ sounds, purposes, and values.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I can’t separate my creative process from my process of tending to the conditions of my life. One could say I haven’t had the luxury to solely focus on my own poems, but I’m pretty sure that luxury would not have served me. Most of my poems come to me as I do what I do in my life—making soup, watering the tomatoes, interacting with students, sitting in the ER with my son, talking to my mom on the phone, walking the dog. I live with the poem’s entry point for a while—walk around with it. By the time I can turn to the page it has gained a body. Maybe a single eye. Too many limbs. Sometimes that germ of an idea requires research, which I often do in tandem with writing. Although many think of poetry as an art primarily of emotion, I don’t experience it that way. Maybe the closest I can come to describing the process is an image, that of a many-layered cake. Feeling is one layer, sure, but also intellect, meditative thinking, instinct, something like a checking-in with history, and consulting that part of the writer that has always been, and is unchangeable. All of that at once in one big bite.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter?

I don’t think these are things one can be overly-conscious about, or conscientious about. My recommendations are simple and probably nothing new: read everything, and not just contemporary poetry. Write often. Live in such a way that your life is a reflection of your art, and vice versa. Experiment with form, both traditional and invented. Remember where you are from—the landscape and people that vexed you and held you up. Write whatever is in front of you, whatever is next. Don’t obey the zeitgeist. When in doubt, take a road trip. You will generally only discover your subject matter and voice (whatever voice is) in looking back at what you have already made.

How has teaching impacted your own writing?

Teaching has kept me current, not just in staying up-to-date in my reading, but observing what is important to 18-22-year-olds, from eyebrow shaping to revolutions in identity. Teaching is a kind of performance. It makes one very aware of oneself and the way one performs oneself. That has certainly made its way into my work. At its best, the classroom became a place in which the group of us had a couple of good hours every few days to consider really difficult poems and to develop, together, a kind of thesis about them and how they were made. Those conversations compelled me, and made their way into how I think about my own work. Ultimately, teaching taught me the nuances of each individual and each individual poem.

What are you currently working on?

My next book, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, comes out next May, and is complete aside from acting on editorial suggestions I’ll receive from my press. I’m currently working on a book-length sequence of unrhymed sonnets that, strung together, will make a kind of memoir, but less a memoir of events than of how my mind works and remembers in a given moment.

How has growing up and living in the Midwest affected your writing?

I can’t imagine how my poems would sound without the Midwest, its cadences and idioms, Michigan in particular, Niles and Edwardsburg, more particularly, nor can I conceive of my image palette without the rural Midwestern landscape—not just its “scenery” but its details. Along with my poems’ sounds and images, their point of view is profoundly Midwestern. They activate personality/performance to deflect suffering, for instance. They make space for and value oddity. I will add that I see no shame in enacting a regional perspective. Faulkner did it, and raised it to archetype. Frank O’Hara did it. Every contemporary poet came from somewhere. A coastal, urban somewhere and accompanying point of view is no more valid, contains no more provocative urgency, than Yoknapatawpha County.

What relationship do you feel your poetry has to prose?

Well, the boundary between the two has certainly grown less clear. Some would say my work leans toward the discursive and the narrative, which is probably true. When I write prose, I am more committed to the development of ideas than I am in poems, in which I allow for the associative mind to take over. Poems allow for the inexplicable image to dominate. I love that. Poems lead me; I lead prose. Maybe that is the central difference in my experience of writing the two. Still, anything I say about how the two modes operate only holds for me, and I am always ready for my own experience of writing to not hold.

Have you read anything recently that really got you excited?

Always. In poetry, Bruce Lack’s brilliant collection Service, on his experience as a Marine during two tours of duty in Fallujah, Anne Cecelia Holmes’ The Jitters, which is the best depiction of how the self and the mind operate in a profoundly disorienting time that I’ve read, and Aaron Smith’s Primer—honest, brutal, erotic, human. I’ve also had the chance to read a thus-far unpublished manuscript by Courtney Faye Taylor. All I can say it—get ready, world. I also love to read nonfiction. I’m currently reading an arcane dictionary of superstitions that has me geeked, and I’m re-reading The Grapes of Wrath.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Most lives are a sort of string of pearls of adversity, adversity represented by the pearls, not the string. My pearls are many—losing my dad at an early age, contending with loved ones’ addictions, divorce, single-parenthood, poverty, major physical injury. I would say that the writing is what held me up, rather than me maintaining it. It was writing that kept me alive and intact. Writing—form itself—is profoundly grounding. A writer can direct her gaze anywhere, sometimes toward adversity, sometimes not. It’s all content—from a shattered body to the song of a spring peeper. Poetry equalizes. To form something out of the chaos of experience is salvation.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I can fix a toilet with a paperclip.

About the Author

Diane Seuss’s most recent collection, Four-Legged Girl, published in 2015 by Graywolf Press, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open won the Juniper Prize and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. Her poetry has been published in a broad range of literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Iowa Review, New England Review, and The New Yorker. Seuss’s fourth collection, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in May 2018.

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Writeliving Interview: Matthew Olzmann

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Photo by Evans Tasiopoulos 

I’m thrilled to get a chance to interview one of my favorite poets and fellow Michigander Matthew Olzmann. Yes, I can still call myself that after so many years in California. Matthew’s work is imaginative, rich, accessible, playful, and memorable. Consider getting his newest book Contradictions in the Design, from Alice James Books, for the holidays.

– Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

Too many to really list, but Wisława Szymborska, Robert Hayden and Larry Levis are writers whose work I’ve returned to with great frequency. My teacher Stephen Dobyns. My wife Vievee Francis—my discussions with her are always a part of my writing.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I’m always working on several things at once. Maybe five or six poems plus a story or essay. I tend to shuffle between them as I revise. I work on something and take it as far as I can go with it then, when I get stuck, I shift to something else and eventually circle back.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter?

Instead of finding your “voice” find a bunch of “voices.” Try on a lot of new things, new approaches, new ideas, etcetera. See what fits, what you might grow into and what’s challenging. Make mistakes. Your voice will be somewhere between all these things.

How has teaching impacted your own writing?

It makes you more aware of the choices you make and the things you value in writing. Having to articulate what might seem to be intuitive or intangible causes me to be more conscious of how I approach a piece of writing. Discussing a poem—whether it’s a poem I know and love by a writer I admire, or a new poem by a student that I’m reading for the first time—requires a careful attention to how a poem is put together. You notice what effects the poem produces, and then you try to describe how those effects are produced. It’s a discipline, a type of study, that deepens your relationship to the craft.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working a on new manuscript of (mostly) epistolary poems, and some scattered poems which are unrelated to that project. Also some short prose—flash fiction and lyric essays.

How has growing up and living in Michigan affected your writing?

It’s provided the landscape that’s become the backdrop for many of my poems. It’s introduced me to some of my closest friends in the writing world. It provided the first communities of writers that I was a part of, communities that probably continue to impact my writing and worldview in both pronounced and subtle manners.

Have you read anything recently that really got you excited?

House of Water by Matthew Nienow. Look by Solmaz Sharif. Also really looking forward to reading Overpour by Jane Wong, Vanessa Hua’s collection of stories Deceit and Other Possibilities, and Mike Scalise’s memoir The Brand New Catastrophe.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Not really. The “dream” of writing, I think, is kept alive solely by your love for it. You have to find time to write and to do that you might have to sacrifice something else. Those sacrifices might be significant, but you do that because you love writing. Writers write because they love books or stories or poems. And any obstacles I’ve faced aren’t incredibly unique to me. I went to four colleges before finishing my undergraduate degree. It took 12 years with a lot of time off in between. I tried to learn to write on my own for awhile. A lot of rejections. There’s the realization that the gap between the poems you want to write and the poems you’re capable of writing might be vast. And you go back to work. I hesitate to call any of this “adversity” because I’m doing something I love.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I wrestled in high school. I played trumpet for three years and hated it. I’ve had jobs as a theater usher, a grocery store cashier and as a medical courier.

About the Author:

Matthew Olzmann is the author of two poetry collections: Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design (both from Alice James Books). His writing has appeared in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Brevity, Gulf Coast and elsewhere. He teaches at Dartmouth College and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Eight Stages of Writing a Poem

Guest Blog Post by Rick Bursky

Rick Bursky photo

1 Fishing

This is the beginning, looking for an image, sound, snippet of language anything that could launch my imagination into something that might hold my interest long enough to begin a poem. Just because this starts the poem doesn’t guarantee it will survive as the first line or even be in the finished poem.

2 Collecting

Once I have the way in a begin collecting lines that might relate to the opening even in the most obscure way. At first blush, the new lines might only relate on an emotional level. But this is like brainstorming, there are no bad lines. I write them down, whatever I come up with, collecting a page or two of stray images of statements.

3 Expanding/Building

I look at what I have and assess the possibilities. Now I’m applying some rational logic to what’s on the page. I’m trying to see what lines I want to elaborate on, perhaps look for interesting words –– I might pick up a book of someone else’s poetry, read something and find a word I haven’t ever used in a poem and use that as the point of expansion. This stage is most emotional.

4 Shaping

The cutting begins. I toss out the lines that stick out and haven’t found a way to cement themselves into the emotional heart of the poem. This is also where I begin to pay attention to the lineation of the poem, enjambment and whatnot. The look of the poem begins to show itself. This stage is all about craft.

5 Titling

The DNA of a poem is in the title. This is crucial and where the intent –– though not what started the poem –– of what I’ve put on the page announces itself. The title is the emotional introduction to the poem.

6 Reading

I ask some trusted readers, all accomplished poets, to read the poem and provide comments.

7 Revising

I have comments from my readers. And because some time has passed I don’t have any emotional attachment to the poem. I look at the comments and start revising, I don’t always use the comments but usually use most of them, or at least use them as questions to ask the poem. Revision phase is also craft, and is very clinical. It has little to do with creating art, it’s all about “writing,” sandpapering and clarity.

8 Evaluating

This is one of the toughest, if not the toughest phases. I have to decide if the poem is any good. Do I want to throw it away? Or harvest any of the lines for some other poem? Should I revise, shape or build again? Do I want to send it out? Do I want to put it in my manuscript? It often take weeks, months or longer to answer those questions.

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 Abandoned Social Media Sites

#10 Cat Tails – The photo blog of twitching fur saving the universe from frowns

#9 Ukulele Daily – Video uploads of mad jams and fab ukulele bands

#8 You Know the Drill – The quest for self-dentistry and self-knowledge

#7 Diarrhea Diaries – One man’s helpful public bathroom commute suggestions from Hoboken to Stamford

#6 Missing Slinks – Photo sharing site of historical figures made from Slinkies and imagination

#5 …! – An obsession with ellipses in public signs gathered from around the world

#4 Adventures of the Human Skull – This charismatic skull really gets around in popular vacation spots

#3 Bathtub Bandit – Self pics of our favorite bandit bathing in birthday suit + ski mask while burgling

#2 Dusting with the Stars – Dust bunnies dance to contestants blowing them in arranged choreography

#1 More than Fish – The daily posts of what Jesus ate ending the night of the Last Supper

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You have fortitude. The above work is an awful list poem. The sites in it were supposed to be bad, but the exercise ended up as bad poetry.

In some ways it may be closest to a failed David Letterman top ten list. I pulled this from my poetry bin while looking for possible gems for a new manuscript.

Martin Ott

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10 Pieces of Writing Advice on a Milestone Birthday

Big thanks to David Ebenbach, who asked me to send him writing advice to post on his FB wall for my birthday today. The result is below.

– Martin Ott

  1. We all are neurotic – even accomplished writers
  2. We all feel envy – even the kindest writers
  3. We all need to be humble – even incredible writers
  4. We all need confidence – even successful writers
  5. We all aim to connect – even experimental writers
  6. We all fail to connect – even concise writers
  7. We all play with words – even serious writers
  8. We all want to make it sting – even comedic writers
  9. We all need support – even famous writers
  10. We all need to support others on the path – even beginning writers

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Jason Sanford’s Terrific 12 List of Best Sci-Fi Magazines

I was recently searching online for a list of top sci-fi magazines and couldn’t find one I liked. However, noted sci-fi author Jason Sanford just tweeted the list below and I thought I’d post it as a resource. I’ve appeared in one so far (Asimov’s) and I’m setting my sights on the others.

– Martin Ott

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We’re All Neurotic at AWP

My first AWP was in Chicago four years ago and it helped inspire me to launch this blog, among other things. My desire was to connect with a larger writing community, but I found myself in a world that felt overwhelming. There were too many writers, magazines, and presses. There were institutional relationships that someone outside academia, like myself, didn’t have. There were more established writers, more confident writers, writers with posses.

Even though my first two books had come out the year before I found myself, at times, feeling like I didn’t belong. People often complain about the dynamics of AWP that remind them of high school popularity, the constant act of people looking at name tags and looking for more important people to talk to, the dynamics of the in-crowd at every table, panel, and off-site event.

As I ready myself to go to my third AWP in my home town of Los Angeles, I am struggling with my own neuroses. Two of my best friends I’d looked forward to hanging out with are absent. My community is often long distance, and fostered on social media. I’ve spent too many years as a recluse. The one thing I find solace in, however, is that almost all of the other writers here feel similar emotions, regardless of their reputations or publication history.

This AWP I have decided to just have fun and feed my creative need. I have loaded events, panels, and book signings into my phone that I am excited to attend. I have told myself that if I can reboot my creative energy to last the year, to propel myself to write and read more diligently, that the event will be worth it. I have decided to consciously not network, but to try to fill be my most vulnerable creative self. I have taken three days off work, and will start the process tomorrow to prepare for a reading later in the week and go to my first event where I may not know anyone.

All writers are neurotic. It’s part of our DNA. Do yourself a favor – don’t compare yourself to anyone else this week. Don’t worry about being a nobody, a geek, or a fan. Every person at this event has moments of doubt. We are here to support each other and our craft. Hope to see some of you in LA.

– Martin Ott

 

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