Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Southern Oregonian writer Amy Miller recently asked me to join the  My Writing Process Blog Tour. Amy is the author of  several Poetry books including Botanica, Tea Before Questions, The Mechanics of Rescue and Beautiful/Brutal: Poems About Cats.  I though it might be kind of fun until I really started thinking about the questions.  Yes, each participant addresses the same four questions about their writing. Amy Blogs as Writer's Island and her Writing Process Tour post is linked here. I really did have to do some deep thinking about these.

QUESTION #1: What are you working on?

Honestly finding my way out of the forest.

I'm in the very early stages of working on a poetry manuscript themed on a ballpark that is slated for demolition. A ballpark much maligned, but one that I loved and the juxtaposition between the fans hope with its conception and what it came to symbolize. I irony of affection shown for it in it's final home-stand.

I'm toying with some other offshoots of several of the stronger poems I've written in the past - hoping to gain traction  with other themed collections as well. I'm bridging my time reworking older drafts and keeping my mind open to new poems..

I plan to work with another poet this fall on some poems possibly for the ballpark project. Hoping to find my way out of that forest I mentioned.  I've found that it is helpful for me to get some coaching from someone whose poetic voice resonates well with me. It's a little like a therapist seeing another therapist. We all need a head-check at times if nothing else, just to know things are working.

QUESTION #2: How does your voice differ with others of it's genre?

Enough, I hope. This is always a fear of mine.  Make it different, change things up Take the refrigerator  and lay it on the side... think about it differently and hope your readers will see something different.

I believe poets especially are expected to think outside the box. So that's whee it has to start. Finding some originality in your craft.  Part of it is your voice. Getting comfortable in your own skin. Feeling it is safe to take ownership of your voice. A distinctive voice, playing with the tone, the language... putting the "ive" on create.

I tend to bring a big tool box to my craft. I like to use sarcasm, humor, seriousness. Go dark or light sometimes within the same poem. I love art that is has dissonance.  I especially like the abstract but you are more likely to see it sprinkled in my work then overtaking it.

QUESTION #3: Why do I write what I do?  

It happens. Just happens. I've found it works far better to let the ideas come to you than to pick specific things to pursue.  When I've tried to guide the conversation with the poem - things seem forced. I am rarely happy with the outcome. Once I've started on something that has come to me
I try above all else to let the poem say what it wants. I can fine tune in rewrite but it's best if it follows the path of least resistance. The process should be like water and flow downhill to the conclusion.

QUESTION #4 How does your writing process work? 

Sometimes I find it helpful to write with background noise. It can be music. I have a couple of play lists I will write to Spotify.  Sometime I use a program that simulate noise in a coffee shop or just use white noise to drown out distractions and things that would interrupt me.

The biggest help has been my writing studio. I can better control the the climate, the noise, interruptions, lighting, etc. I used to tell myself I could write anywhere, and I could, but the quality of writing sitting in the room with television on really did suffer.

Sometimes I will start on paper, usually in my journal then take it to my laptop to refine. I prefer writing with a fountain pen. Seriously, I feel more creative with one in my hand. I mostly use one on my 9-5 job as well.

Poems on rare occasion will come together quickly - but most of the time the process is more like a fine wine aging and the poems will not be seen anytime soon in the real world.


I was to tag a couple other writes that I wanted to join us on the blog  tour. Unfortunately so many on my list it seems have already participated or did not have blogs (seriously?)

Fortunately one of the first that I thought of was Jessica Smith.  Of those I tagged, I heard back from Jessica and she was delighted to participate. She will join us next Thursday.

In the meantime, here is Jessica's Bio:

Jessica Smith, Founding Editor of Foursquare and name magazines, serves as the Librarian for Indian Springs School, where she curates the Indian Springs School Visiting Writers Series. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she received her B.A. in English and Comparative Literature: Language Theory, M.A. in Comparative Literature, and M.L.S. from SUNY Buffalo, where she participated in the Poetics Program. She is the author of numerous chapbooks including mnemotechnics (above/ground 2013) and two full-length books of poetry, Organic Furniture Cellar (Outside Voices 2006) and Life-List (Chax Press 2015).

Jessica Blogs at Looktouch

Books Incarnate

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Confession Tuesday - Fallen Away Confessor Edition

Dear Reader:

I feel like a fallen away Confessor. I've not been really good about Confession Tuesday lately. I suppose that's where my confession should start.

I confess that  I feel like I should be in bed right now. I came down with a cold yesterday and it was full blown today. The sniffles, chest  congestion, that burning  feeling in your chest and a cough that gives me a headache. When I cough like this I feel like my brain is being battered around inside my skull.

I confess that Diabetic Tussin sucks. It advertises on the package no sugar, no alcohol, no Sorbitol, no fructose and gluten free. I has nothing in it to give it any kind of flavor - and that would be okay if I feel like it was doing me any good. But no, it taste crappy and I don't feel any better for using it.

I'm in a pretty crappy mood to. My wife has maintained for years I do not do sick well. I will acknowledge I get pretty grumpy.

Historically I have often denied sickness as long as I could. I resist  taking a break and work through it. The past few years I have had chest colds the have settled in my lungs and have really knocked me down. Because if this, I tend now to take these kind of things much more seriously.

I confess that I want to be writing tonight and yet I will forgo it because I'm pretty sure I'm just not going to get into it. I never like going long without writing.  Writing keeps my mood balanced. I like getting lost in my writing.

I think I am going to call it a night and go read a couple poems from a book I just pulled out of my book case. Forms of Intercession by Jayne Pupek.  That will be my concession for not writing tonight. Then head to bed a bit early.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mag 237: Snow Blindness

The shear delight in soft white.
A burst of morning on my horizon.
Dangling, delicate, delicious.
Woven  intricacies of light and space.
I am lost in the bright blight of colorlessness.
Entranced in my own snow blizzard

Michael Allyn Wells

Mag 237

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Value of Journaling to a Writer

"Keeping a Diary all my life helped me to discover some basic elements 
essential to the vitality of writing." -  Anais Nin

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Wednesday, September 17, 2014 @ 7 p.m.

Dave Smith is the author of over 20 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, His recent books include Hawks on Wires (poems, Louisiana State University, 2011); and Afield: Writers on Bird Dogs (edited with Robert DeMott, Skyhorse Press, 2010).

Smith has served as editor of The Southern Review, The New Virginia Review and the University of Utah Poets Series. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, twice. He recently joined the writing faculty at the University of Mississippi, after 11 years with Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program.

Admission to the reading is $3 at the door. Books will be available for purchase at the event. A reception with book signing follows the reading. For more information, call the Center for Arts and Letters, 816-501-4607.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Confession Tuesday - I HEART Adjustments Edition.

Dear Reader:

It's been #&*@ weeks since my last confession. Actually I don't recall my last one. I'm thinking it's been over a month.

I don't know how many of you have routine chiropractic treatment (generally called adjustments) but they are a routine in my instance. This because I have a back condition that I've had since adolescence.  For years I endured the pain - trying mostly to treat with various pain medication. These were generally only moderately helpful. Once I started seeing a chiropractor several years ago, my periods of pain relief significantly improved. But I know that this requires ongoing  adjustments to keep my back skeletal structure aligned.

If I may metaphorically speak for a moment (as poets will at times do) I've come to look at my writing in much the same way as my back. I will be writing along and suddenly I become disenchanted with my results. When this happens I begin to question my writing in general. Last year, and the early part of this year I enjoyed a good deal of success with acceptances of submissions to journals. The last few months however have been dry. This too has coincided with  some hyper criticism by myself of what I've been writing over this same period. Then there comes a convergence of past, present and future. It looks something like this:

  • I'm not happy with what I am currently writing
  • I begin to question my earlier successes as flukes and conclude the work is not that good
  • I project all of this negative crap into the future and begin to think I'll never write decent stuff again

I'm sure others may recognize this because I suspect I'm not the only one indulging in this pitiful self-assessment.

There are times in the past when I've gone through this (not the first time) and I have found it helpful to get an adjustment. Not at my chiropractor but by working  with another poet for s brief period of time. I find that it's an excellent way to learn things that will help me and reinforce things I know but begin to question because my anxieties are telling me I must be doing things all wrong.

It's been two years since I've had such a tune-up and I confess (thought I'd forgot the confession part didn't you) that the self doubt has been pretty intense lately and I've decided it's time do make arrangements to readjust  my attitude, work habits and approach to my writing so I've contacted someone who has coached me in the past and plan to get my act together this fall.

I know that I feel better as a person when I'm writing and satisfied with what I'm writing. I confess that when I go through a block or feel the quality is diminished I tend to feel something significant is missing in my life and I'm just not whole.

The good news is that I realize there is help for this too, just like there is help for my back condition.
Good to know!