Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Poem Tryouts: Eat This

7:47 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Sink the Bismarck sung by Johnny Horton

Hello, all. I almost forgot, I am so busily running errands through my head. My brother and his wife arrive this evening. However, you before sheets and towels.

Every year, during NaNoWriMo, I talk about the importance of eating for character development. Then I try to do a variation on what is basically: ‘Describe a scene where…’. So, let me talk a minute on the subject. It is not easy to show a character’s personality without a string of adjectives. The easiest way is through actions and interactions. One of the best of these is a scene where the character is eating, either alone, or with someone, or at a party. Think about it a moment. Think of different meals and what someone might learn about you were they to watch your approach to eating. Think of other people you know and how they eat and what you learn. Heck, go sit at a coffeehouse and watch people. What judgments do you make based on how they eat and drink?

As Skip and I were just in New Orleans, and I was thinking about this prompt, I noticed the differences in the way we approach food and drink. If you were with us when we hit Felix’s Oyster House, and you ordered a half-dozen of these briny delicacies, what would we have seen? Do you jab a fork into the oyster, dunk it in sauce and move it to your mouth before it falls? Or do you pour sauce on the oyster, lift the shell to your mouth and slurp? When drinking a Bloody Mary at Maspero’s, where they believe in a varied assortment of condiments, do you ignore the toothpicked vegetables until your drink is done or do you eat them first, one by one, before your first sip? When eating beignets at Cafe du Monde, do you try to remove as much powdered sugar as possible, before taking a bite of the hot and crispy pastry, or do you bring the heaping whole to your mouth, powdered sugar be damned (along with your face and clothes}.

You get my point. NaNoWriMo-ers, you know what to do. Poets, pick a scene you remember, or envision, of a single person eating. Don’t tell us what the scene depicts about the speaker, or character, but allow us to know through your description. The scene can be a part of a larger story or the sole focus. First, or third person. You can even wait until Thanksgiving, if you are celebrating, and see if there is a likely candidate for your poem.

I’m giving us Thursday off and I will see you next Tuesday for an image prompt (which this would have been in the normal course of things).

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours whether you celebrate or not. Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 24/11/2015 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Poetics Serendipity

7:40 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Robbie Williams singing Me and My Shadow (Yes, that Robbie Williams — he has an entire album of Frank Sinatra, and similar singers’, songs. Brilliant.)

Hello. I am returned from New Orleans beigneted and Bloody Mary-ed enough to keep me going for a few months. Lordy, the food is good in that city. Perhaps more on that with Tuesday’s prompt. On to today’s business. Nanos, coming down the home stretch!

1] NaNoWriMo-ers, I have a link that keeps on giving. Poets, you will enjoy reading just as much. Back in 2012, The Atlantic published an article titled 6 Writing Tips from John Steinbeck (a master of narrative structure, among other things), written by Maria Popova. How could I resist a statement like: The legendary author explains why you should abandon all hope of finishing your novel?

Within the piece are several links to other useful articles, such as David Ogilvy’s 10 No-bullshit Tips and Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments, You’ll be able to lose yourself, happily.

2] This next is in pdf format and will need to be enlarged, unless your eyes work better than mine. The Poetry School is London-based, but has courses around England and online. Everything I have seen from them is first-rate. The link takes you to their 2016 schedule.

3] While we are at The Poetry School, read an interview with their digital poet in residence. The interviewer is Will Barrett and the poet, Clare Shaw. Read what she has to say about a poet’s voice. It’s a fascinating description.

Right. I’m off to my second cup of coffee. I will see you Tuesday for a prompt and Thursday for more links.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 19/11/2015 in links, poetry, writing


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Poetics Serendipity

8:33 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Istanbul sung by They Might Be Giants (who have a fascinating repertoire)

Hello, there. Everyone good? Nanos, still breathing? Let’s see what we have today.

1] The first place we will visit is short but fun. Kath over at For Reading Addicts gives us How to Write Fiction: Tips From Ernest Hemingway. In her introduction Kath says: Unlike other authors, Hemingway never wrote a book on writing, but he did give good writing advice and some of this is immortalised in correspondence and articles he wrote during his life.

2] TED Talks, anyone? Yeh, I knew you’d like that. I chose a playlist that focuses on narrative: 10 talks by authors. The talks range from ‘The Politics of Fiction’ to ‘What Fear Can Teach Us’.

3] Narrative structure being the framework that holds and unfolds the story, I push it every year. While looking around this year, I found an excellent article on Wikipedia (had to be written by an author, or teacher): Plot (narrative).

4] While all the above might be of interest to the poets,here’s one just for you: The Seven Types of Poetry, by Robert Peake. We haven’t had a piece by Robert in a while, and his is an interesting viewpoint.

Okay. I mentioned I will not be around Tuesday. I will be in New Orleans. Depending on the time of day, I will be sipping coffee, or a Bloody Mary, and eating beignets, or oysters. I will see you again next Thursday for more links.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 12/11/2015 in links, poetry, writing


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Poetics Serendipity

7:46 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald sung by Gordon Lightfoot

Hello, all. Happy Guy Fawkes. NaNoWrimo-ers, you should be settling into your stride. Let’s see what I have of interest.

1] At first, I wasn’t sure whether to post this. After all, it’s just results of surveys. Then I realised I was reading through the results, and I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. The website, Galley Cat, has published what they term an infographic by the team at Stop Procrastinating that features the results of “A Survey of 2000 NaNoWriMo Writers”. One of the reasons I kept reading is that they have made the graphic attractive and easy to inhale quickly.

2] The Writer’s Circle is a wonderful resource. One of the things they do is find lists such as words used to describe hair. They found the list at a website titled Writing With Color. If I could have found this list there, I would have given you a direct link. I searched, really I did. I’ll give you the link to TWC’s Facebook page instead.

3] This last is an essay by poet Audré Lord, posted on the website On Being. ‘Poetry is Not a Luxury‘ discusses why women need poetry. I rather think men need it for many of the same reasons.

4] Courtesy of the always amusing Debbie Ridpath Ohi

nanowrimo ohi2

See you Tuesday for a prompt and Thursday for more links.

Happy writing, everyone.

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Posted by on 05/11/2015 in poetry, writing


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Poem Tryouts: Turn, Turn, Turn

8:O6 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to a medley of The Scottish Fight Song and Amazing Grace — I found it so uplifting to watch the video of this being played that the heck with the prompt, here’s a link, go watch and listen

Okay, okay and a prompt, but I’m going to take breaks to go back and watch the cellist. Hi, everyone. Settling in NaNoWriMo-ers? Have your plan in hand? For those new to Wordgathering, in the past year, I spend November talking to the novel writers. Sometimes I will have a prompt they can work on within their novel; sometimes I will discuss things to keep in mind. I always have a suggestion for the poets.

Some of you will be leaping in for the first time. Several of you have been participating for years. A few of you will be using the time to revise a novel in hand. No matter which, somewhere in your brain you’ll need to be conscious of the structure of the whole, and within the whole, each chapter. The same goes for poetry, but unless we are writing epics, we have a much smaller area within which to work and only one turn to consider. For both, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. The key component is the turn, the moment when the story stops moving forward, but instead heads to a resolution.

In a novel, there are many mini-turns because there are sub-plots. If you are panicking about the novel as a whole, focus on the sub-plots. As in poetry, the first draft is getting stuff down on paper. It’s not writing until the revision happens (except for one or two people who have a gift — we aren’t sure we are speaking to them). For today, be conscious of the forward movement of your narrative, and thinking of where the several plots will eventually turn, in particular, the main plotline.

Poets, write a poem where the turn is particularly obvious. The best form for this is the sonnet, which sets up the problem in the first eight lines, and then comments on the problem as a way of resolution (not, necessarily solution), in the final sestet. Don’t panic. I’m not asking you to write a sonnet, although you certainly may. But, be more conscious of laying out an observation, or a problem, of where the poem turns and how you reach the end.

If you need something more specific by way of a spark, check Quickly’s House of Curiosities.

I shall see you Thursday for links and such; and Tuesday for another of my prompts.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 03/11/2015 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Poetics Serendipity

8:11 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Train, Train sung by Blackfoot

Hello, all. We finally have autumn-like weather. At least we do until the afternoon when it’s still climbing into the eighties. We’re getting there. In a couple of days, NaNoWriMo starts. For new people, during November I’ll post some links more directed to the writing of prose, and the Tuesday prompts are for prose writers but easily adaptable to poetry.

1] First up, Robert Lee Brewer. There was a momentary panic amongst participants, last week, when Robert had not posted regarding his November Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge, but it’s official: Robert is providing his usual forum. Head over to read the guidelines.

2] The second find sounds interesting. Novlr describes itself as built by writers for writers, a place to safely hold your words, workable on any computer. They offer a free trial period for the whole of November. It sounds worth trying. You’ll know if you must have it or not.

3] The next is from The Writer’s Circle. They have many good things; you’ll be seeing a lot of them this month. This first offering is to remind you to relax and laugh at yourself this month: Writing a First Draft: The 8 Stages Writers Go Through. (Ignore the stuff around the poster)

4] Grammarly kindly asked whether I wanted to share Which Literary Monster Are You?  Well, of course, I do. It’s Halloween weekend coming up. Have some fun. I found the questions asked, interesting, although I’m not sure about the conclusion. When you arrive on the page, hit the Let’s Play button. (Yes, it would be better if I embedded the link — let’s not go there)

5] A last second addition. Tawnya Smith asked me to post a call for The Mayo Review. The deadline is this weekend, but you just might have something that fits.

I will see you Tuesday for a prompt; and Thursday for links.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 29/10/2015 in links, poetry, writing


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Poetics Serendipity

7:58 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Queen singing We Are the Champions

Hello, all. I have a diversity of goodies, today. I have packing to do and borscht to make (when one’s husband arrives home and excitedly produces produce grown by colleagues, what is one to do?), so we will jump right in.

1] Robert Lee Brewer opens his post with: It’s time! Time for the 8th annual April PAD Challenge on the Poetic Asides blog, and I’m super excited about it. I’m happy to report that we’ll have the anthology and a new round of guest judges this year (more on both below).

Many of you have participated in Robert’s PAD Challenges. If you haven’t and are looking for a place to hang your poetic hat during April, head over to read what else Robert says. His post offers the complete guidelines.

2] This is a follow-up on two previous PS items. Two weeks ago I mentioned the University of Iowa’s free online course, upcoming. Now, I have words from a participant: I did this MOOC last year, and plan to use it again this Spring. The materials are good, and presented clearly. You can choose your level of involvement: to watch a video now and then if that’s all you want; to go all out–writing, critiquing, discussing points with others in the forums, writing essays–as if it were a seminar; or anything in between. Barbara says one or two more things, if you want to visit her.

The second item is that, sadly, The Poetry Storehouse has closed for business. You can still visit and wander through its archives. Here’s the why and wherefore, from Nic Sebastian. Stay tuned.

3] Here’s your thought-provoking item: The Most Successful Creative People Constantly Say ‘No’, written by Kevin Ashton for Business Insider (trust me). I skimmed the first part, thought, Maybe, and began to move on. Something held me. I reread the first part, where Ashton offers statements by a few people, and read further into the article.

The author is clearly a creative. He says, Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. Sound familiar? Read the article.

4] Of interest: The Pubslush Foundation revealed a new grant for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). How about a $10, 000 prize? The item is short and I know many of you take part in NaNoWriMo or know people who do, or know people who want to.

I will see you tomorrow for the week’s roundup of prompts and then not until Tuesday 17th for my weekly prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 05/03/2015 in links, poetry, writing


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Poetics Serendipity: Rhetorical Modes

8:01 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Joseph’s Dreams sung by Jason Donovan (when my Library is on shuffle, I get an odd mix)

Hello, everyone. There is no way, I can find, to make the following shorter, or snazzier, but rhetoric lies at the heart of what we do, whether poetry or prose. Rhetoric is the art of communicating with an audience which, for us, means communicating with readers using literary  and compositional techniques. There are many modes of rhetorical writing, but the following are the four main ones.

DESCRIPTION is a report of appearances, of how places or persons or objects strike the senses of an observer.

NARRATION is a report of actions, of what people do separately or to each other on a given occasion.

DRAMA (DIALOGUE) is a report of conversation, of people talking back and forth.

REVERIE (REFLECTION, STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS) is a report of thoughts and feelings, of what goes on in a particular person’s mind.

The following schemes are adapted by James Penha from Leo Rockas’ thinking and book, Modes of Rhetoric.

The various modes of DESCRIPTION, NARRATION, DIALOGUE, and REVERIE are often separate from each other, but also often mixed. REVERIE–the representation of a character or narrator thinking–tends to dominate the other modes it’s mixed with. Why? Because anything anyone thinks–thinking of the description of a garden once seen, thinking of the narration of an event that once happened, thinking of the dialogue of a conversation once overheard–tends to be subjective. Thus, reverie tends to bind the other modes mixed with the reverie to a particular “point of view.”


TIME comparison of the four modes:
DESCRIPTION: No story time.
NARRATION: Story time >/= reading time.
DIALOGUE:  Story time = reading time.
REVERIE:  Story time < reading time.

 SUBJECT/PRONOUN tendencies of the four modes:
DESCRIPTION: Things/people described as things; it.
NARRATION:  People/things described as people; he/she/they.

VERB & TENSE tendencies of the four modes:
DESCRIPTION: Being verbs in the past or present.
NARRATION:  Active verbs in the past.
DIALOGUE: Verbs of feeling in the present.
REVERIE: Future, hypothetical, or speculative forms of verbs.

TYPICAL FORMULAS of the four modes:
NARRATION:  he ran.
DIALOGUE:  you love.
REVERIE:  I will.
Notice that each mode gets closer to the self.

II.    LITERARY ELEMENTS & MODES.  Each of the four major literary elements tends to correspond to one of the modes:
SETTING is most easily rendered by DESCRIPTION.
PLOT is most easily rendered by NARRATION.
CHARACTER is most easily rendered by DIALOGUE.
THEME is most easily rendered by REVERIE.

REVERIE is subjective.

The point of view is objective when there is no reverie.
The point of view is subjective when there is reverie.
The point of view is omniscient when there is reverie of more than one character.
The point of view is limited when there is the reverie of only one character.
“First-person” point of view almost always results in reverie.
In “third-person” point of view, the character with the reverie is talked about in third-person.


No recognizable genre—save perhaps haiku and list poems—is predominantly DESCRIPTION.
Short stories, novels, epics, and narrative poems are dominated by NARRATIVE.
Plays and dramatic monologues (Browning, Eliot, Tennyson) and dialogue poems (Frost) are dominated by DRAMA.
Lyric poems are dominated by REVERIE.

Whew! We will return to normal links and such Thursday after next. Meanwhile, I shall see you tomorrow for the roundup; Tuesday for an image prompt; and the following Tuesday for a regular poetry prompt. We’ll be dark next Thursday and Friday.

Happy ingesting and writing, all.

What? One link? Okay. If you don’t know about Galley Cat, the site is giving tips specifically for NaNoWriMo, but many apply to the writing of poetry. They are not long and there are several nuggets. I’ll give you the general address for the tips and you can scroll around.

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Posted by on 20/11/2014 in writing


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Poem Tryouts: It’s All About Perspective

7:49 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Best of You sung by Foo Fighters

Hello there! Brrr! The weather looks like it has decided to get serious. Pour yourself something hot (If your time zone is at the other end of the day, consider hot apple cider and brandy), pull up your computer and start the grey cells going. NaNoWriMo is on the downward slope. Keep your eyes on the barn door. You’re heading home now.

mountain far

far away

Let us consider perspective. Artists know it’s all about perspective. When describing a locale, people, and events, we need to keep in mind [more so in fiction than poetry], that in writing about a scene, based solely on distance and angle, we can’t apply the same degree of detail to everything. Our characters, especially whoever is narrating, can’t know many things.

Consider a character, or a person you know. The two of you are sitting side by side in a car. What do you see of the other person? The two of you get out and continue a conversation, over the bonnet (front part) of the car. How has your perspective changed? The other person crosses the street to talk to someone else. How do things alter as the person recedes? How does the scene change if, as you watch, traffic passes between you?



How much detail do you include? If you are describing a range of mountains you see in the distance, out your window, how much can you tell your reader. If you are getting out of your car in a parking lot near the foot of one of the mountains, how much more do you see? If you have begun the ascent, what will you focus on now. How much detail do you want?



You are watching reports of a protest, on your television. You jot notes. What do you see? You are in the crowd watching the protest. Now what? You are part of the protest. How has your angle and knowledge changed?

Perspective is an important consideration. We need to be able to give our readers a sense of placement and of distance (whether near or far), a sense of what our narrators do, or do not, know because of their perspectives.

The exercise: At different heights, degree of detail is different… the kinds of things



one can see are different… the sounds one can hear are different… the angle of vision is different… things don’t always seem to be what they are … depending on the proximity, smell might come into play. Time of day can join the crowd.

I have a lengthier, more complicated version that we did in 2012 which you can look at and even do if it piques your interest. This shorter, kinder version is specifically so poets can play.

Choose an event, or a setting. I want your narrator to consider the chosen item from a specific place. You need to let us know, without shoving it in our faces, where the place is in terms of its relationship to what the narrator is going to talk about, or describe.

too close

too close

Change the narrator’s view. Alter the angle or the distance and have your narrator discover something they hadn’t seen or known before about what it is they are describing.

Is there a significance, or an epiphany, with the new perspective? (There does not have to be)

That’s it. Nice and easy… or you can do the original exercise. Heh Heh.

I will see you Thursday for some talk on the different modes of writing prose, which might be interesting to consider in a longer poem; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for our monthly image prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 18/11/2014 in exercises, poetry


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Poem Tryouts: Rashomon

8:14 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Run by Snow Patrol

Hello, everyone. Another gorgeous day outside. There are rumours of an early snowstorm in the Midwest which will bring our temperatures plunging by midweek. As long as the sun shines. Hey, NaNoWriMo-ers! You should still be in fairly full throttle, so let’s see what we can find to help you along. You can apply today’s exercise to your plot, or use it to stretch. Poets, think of this as a possibility for a dialogue poem, or a counterpoint poem.

We’re going to play Rashomon today. For those who don’t know the story, it appeared as a Japanese film known for a plot device which involves various characters providing alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident. If you are interested in more [I think it will make the exercise clearer], I have included a link to the least confusing plot summary. We are going to have two possibilities to work with:

1] Think of an incident that involves other people being around, as participants and witnesses. Have each of them tell their view of what happened. You will need to know who each person is, at least as far as occupation, and how they are involved. The incident can be from your life, the news, or made up.

2] Alternatively, have one person recount an incident to five different people. You will need to know who the people are and their relationship to the speaker. Think about it: do you tell a story the same way to your partner, your best friend, your mother, a reporter, a policeman, your employer?

This gives you a chance to play with voice, as well as point of view. Have fun with this when you decide how to structure the piece, whether narrative or poetry. In terms of a poem, you may certainly cut the number of people involved.

Wow! Short. So rare. I will see you Thursday for more on narrative writing; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for another of my narrative prompts.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 11/11/2014 in exercises, poetry, writing


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