Category Archives: Poetry

Kindred Spirits

Greetings Scriblings! PJ Sharon here.

I had the good fortune of attending a few days of the 2014 IWWG Summer Conference this week. If you aren’t familiar with this acronym, it stands for International Women’s Writing Guild. Despite the fact that I’ve been heavily involved in the romance writing community for several years, I’d never even heard of this organization.  Here’s why.

Romance writers and literary writers tend not to associate or travel in the same conference circles. Whether this is due to some misconception that one is better than the other or that the two are diametrically opposed, I can’t say, because my experience with this incredible group of amazingly talented women was nothing but educational, inclusive, and uplifting–not to mention well organized and fun. These ladies write everything from poetry to memoir, creative nonfiction to essays. A few write fiction as well, and many are published, either traditionally or Indie.

Workshops included a study in Metaphor with the fabulous Susan Tiberghien,  a chance to make “mischief” with Kelly Dumar, where we explored our childhood prankster selves and acted out stories of our misspent youth.  I learned some new plotting strategies from the excellent Chris Eboch in the workshop, What I Learned from Nancy Drew,  and Dr. Dixie King’s extremely helpful Nourishing the Writer Within was an eye opener! Dr. King took us through a step by step guide of smart goal setting and challenged us to pinpoint the barriers and limiting beliefs that hold us back from achieving our goals. I was only able to attend two days of the five day conference, but I felt so welcomed and appreciated by the group that I felt as if I’d met some kindred spirits.

IWWG conf. 2In addition to the wonderful workshops and new friends I met, the food was outstanding and the venue at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT was absolutely lovely. I even walked the labyrinth at sunset and spent some time in meditation, which is an area of my life I’ve been neglecting and was sorely needed.

IWWG Conf. 6There was an opportunity to showcase my books at the book fair and take center stage to share from one of my stories.  I was completely floored by the quality of each and every writer’s work that was shared. Poignant stories of family,  deep inner journeys, and prose that gave me chills and had me laughing and crying within the same three minute reading. These women are powerful and brilliant, I tell you!

Regardless of genre, we were all writers and all women–sisters of the pen–there to support each other. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this group if only for a couple of days. It gave me just the shot in the writer’s arm that I needed. I learned some important things about myself in the process and hope to meet these lovely women again in the future. My eyes are open a little wider and my heart has been touched by the gift of their words. Thank you IWWG!

Here’s a little about the organization:

The IWWG, founded in 1976, is a network for the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing and open to all regardless of portfolio. As such, it has established a remarkable record of achievement in the publishing world, as well as in circles where lifelong learning and personal transformation are valued for their own sake. The Guild nurtures and supports holistic thinking by recognizing the logic of the heart–the ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events and emotions- alongside conventional logic.

Have you stretched your wings and made some new friends lately? When was the last time you just wrote for fun? Because if you aren’t having fun, what’s the point, right?

A poet and I didn’t know it!

PJ here. I’ve just returned from a week in Nashville, Tennessee, home of some of the most amazing song writers and musicians of our time. My husband and I had a lovely time there, celebrating the wedding of my eldest step-son and seeing the sights, but I’m always happy to come back to new England, especially with this amazing stretch of weather we’ve had.
Pond pic in the fall In fact, if it gets any prettier up here in the hills, I’ll never want to leave home again.

One of the awesome parts of being in Nashville was hanging out with all of the talented musicians who play in all the Honkey Tonk bars on Broadway. it made me wonder if I’d missed my calling.

Like many writers, I started when I was young, just learning the nuts and bolts of the English language and exploring the intricacies of stringing words together to tell a story. My first efforts were very elementary, and I soon lost interest to more physical pursuits, but once I hit my teens and turned to expressing myself through poetry, my writing blossomed. I had more than one revelation about myself and my world view from re-reading those angst-filled sonnets I wrote about my broken heart and my relatively tragic teenage life. I continued to keep journals and write poems through my twenties, pouring my heart onto the page in an effort to understand myself better, to free my chaotic emotions, and to cope with the challenges of life as a single parent. I used my writing as a way to tell my story in bits and pieces of lyrical prose, snapshots of my spiritual and emotional growth. I haven’t written poetry in years, but I still remember the cathartic power of the exercise.

I want to be clear here; I don’t read much poetry, and never did, although reading the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran changed my life and probably saved my soul at a critical point in my young life. I occasionally pick up a romantic poem by Pablo Neruda and find inspiration in his impassioned writing.

I find poetry to be a bit like bourbon—it’s a lot of work to enjoy it. You have to take it in, swirl it around, ruminate on it, and then decide if you enjoy it enough to swallow it. Usually if you can get past the taste of it on your palette and the burn on your throat as it goes down, you might decide it’s worth trying again. You might even grow to love it passionately, every experience superior to the last.

I could still pass on the bourbon, but writing poetry hooked me in, even if the likes of Tennyson and Dickinson left behind a bit of a funky aftertaste. The interesting thing about writing poetry from my teenage perspective was that it was a safe place for me to express painful emotions, dark thoughts, and deeply rooted beliefs that I was constantly questioning. The cool thing was that being a music lover, I saw how popular music trends seemed to follow suit. It’s no wonder that the angst of a heart rending ballad always resonated with me. Music, as with poetry, enables you to tell a complete story in very few words—including a happy ending if you so choose.

When I began writing PIECES OF LOVE, my next to be released contemporary YA romance, I decided my main character, Ali, was going to sing and play guitar. Of course, being sixteen, she hesitates to share her talents with others for fear of not being good enough—a circumstance we can all relate to, I’m sure. In writing Ali’s story, it dawned on me that I would have to give her an opportunity to explore her feelings through her music.

opry land guitarSo on my lunch break at work one day, I wrote a poem for Ali. Once I wrote the poem—a desperate and emotionally charged anthem to a lost loved one—I then decided the words needed to be set to music. Those of you who know me, know that I love to sing. I don’t play an instrument and I can’t read or write music, but I can carry a tune. So I started trying to put the words to music in my head. After a few short minutes, a tune came to me. I got so excited, I downloaded a recording app onto my phone and recorded the song so I wouldn’t forget the tune. In about a half hours’ time, I’d written my very first song, called Pieces of Love. I also had a new title for my book!

Lucky for me, I have a neighbor who is an awesome guitarist. He has agreed to help me record the song and use it as a theme song, which will be accessible from a link within the e-book. Pretty cool, huh?

So what about you all? Do you like poetry? Hate it? Do you read it often? Who’s your favorite poet? Or are you like me—preferring to write it instead of read it?

Barenaked Ladies by Vivienne Lynge

Good Morning! It’s suddenly Fall here in wonderful New England.  I’m off on a family camping trip – seems like I only camp in cold weather…oh well.  We have sleeping bags.  But I wanted to leave you with my thoughts on my favorite band: The Barenaked Ladies.  They aren’t bare, they aren’t naked (often) nor are they ladies.  What they are is a group of 40-something guys who are wonderful writers and musicians.   And they come from Canada!  

Oh so 90's!
Oh so 90’s!

Way back in 1994, I lived and worked in Long Island, NY.  My roommate at that time worked with a guy who spent quite a lot of time trying to impress her.  During one of those efforts, his brother worked for the William Morris Agency and the brother was going to some bar to see some band no-one had ever heard of.  My roommate was invited to come along and see the show from the front table of the agent.  She wasn’t really interested in the guy, but had nothing better to do, so she asked me to come along as wing-man.  And thus began my love of BNL. 

One thing I have always loved about them, is that we’re roughly the same age.  Their lyrics are about things that I can relate too.  And they aren’t too difficult to figure out.  I loathe poetry, always have.  I don’t get it.  If you want me to know something, then TELL ME!!!!  Don’t make me guess at your meaning.  But BNL’s songs are clever.  FromKing of Bedside Manoron their first album toBoomerangon new one, their songs are always fun.

barenaked ladies Another wonderful about BNL is that these fellas have aged very well. Check out a more recent photo.  Of course, the band has changed over time; Stephen Page, founding member and original lead singer has left to do his own thing.  But Ed Robertson  stepped up – he was always a leading voice, but now, his is the main voice.  Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve always liked Ed’s songs best.  Shhhh – it’ll be our secret.  

Ed is even on my list.  You know about the list, don’t you?  It harkens back to ye olde Friend’s episode where Ross and others have a list of 5 people with whom they may have an affair and not get in trouble with their significant other.  Hubby Deluxe and I have just such lists, and Ed is currently holding the coveted number 2 spot, right behind Josh Lucas.  Here’s why:  ed robertson

In my mind, Ed’s sexiness grew a bunch of times when he and the gang (not to be confused with Kool n the Gang!) released Snacktime – an album of funky fresh songs for kids.   We listen to it all the time, Bad Day, Louis Loon and Pollywog in a Bog are my favorites. 

Of course, no comment about BNL could be complete without a mention of their fantabulous live shows.  If you like the band but have never seen them live, you really must go.  They are hysterical!  And let me leave you with two quick thoughts: Odds Are from their new album soothed my soul on a very bumpy flight home from RWA Nationals.  And last but not least Lovers in a Dangerous Time is my favorite song, pretty much by anybody.  In a better recording than this one, you can really hear all the sounds, the harmonies and such.  Apparently Sir Paul McCartney has said that BNLs harmonies are tighter and more complex than anything he or his Beetley brethren ever tried.  

Today’s Secret: Canada’s best poorly kept secret is a bunch of guys called the Barenaked Ladies.  If I’ve converted you, see itunes for their full song list.  It’s well worth the investment.

Today’s Question: In a moment of 12-year-old-girl fan-dom, have you a favorite band?

 

Stick a Fork in it and Call it Done!

Welcome Friday! Casey here.

I’ve been deep in the writer’s cave plotting my next two books. Doing the usual things.Thinking about my new characters. Asking the burning questions like: What do they want? What is holding them back?

Steampunk OwlNot all that different from nagging talking to my sons – What do you want to do with your life? Do you plan on living in my house forever?

I’ve also been asking – what happens next? What can I do to make their journey as difficult as possible? Not so much “how” will those things happen. I save that part for when I do the actual writing. Then the characters become real and their actions are driven by the barriers I toss in their paths.

Just thinking about the word “plotting” brings to mind a different word – scheming. Muwhahaha! Like a hand-wringing, moustache-twirling villain. Okay, minus the moustache. But I think you get my point.

As a writer, you really are contriving an entire story out of thin air – creating a whole new world that didn’t previously exist. Totally cool and frightening at the same time. And once the story is published, then that world is shared with your readers. They bring their own expectations and realities. Your world isn’t only in your head anymore.

It’s a big responsibility, which is why I spend more time on plotting, character creation, etc. than I do writing. I’ve learned the hard way that planning ahead works best for me.

But with planning comes the ability to know when to stop, put a stake in the ground and

Isn't she pretty?
Isn’t she pretty?

say, “this is what the story will be.”

Again, also a scary step. That means committment to the ideas you’ve set forth and implementing them.

Yes, it means that you need to let go of all the “what ifs” and move ahead with the story you’ve concocted in your head. To not become distracted (or perhaps, seduced) by those nagging plot bunnies.

Have no fear! I know I am not the only Scribe who has started a book (or even written the whole thing) and scrapped it later. That is not a bad thing. It can make you a stronger writer and the book better (as long as you know when to let it go – but that is a different blog post).

But, in order to get there, you have to start writing and finish that first draft. You just do. Not to go all “Mom”, but if you want to be a published author, you have to know when to let go of the idea phase and move to the writing phase.

What has your experience been? How do you know when to start writing? Have you ever started too soon and ended up in a corner later? How did you get out?

My Doxie, A Poem and Me

It’s snowing off and on as I write this, and I’m thinking of my two favorite other snow days when my husband didn’t have to go to work, and we had the days to ourselves. One of those days, while the snow piled high outside, inside, we listened to music and read and talked, warmed by the fire. The second time, we braved the elements to have lunch by firelight at a local rustic inn.

Those are romantic moments to me. I’ve often said we romance authors are all married to engineers even if they aren’t engineers. My husband is an educator, teacher of English and former high school administrator. But really, he’s an engineer. He’s linear, he’s a one-thing-at-a-time guy, he doesn’t sugar coat anything. He solves problems. Don’t all heroes?

Another favorite memory happened on a summer day when he wanted me to listen to an album of poetry — Billy Collins — so we drove to Litchfield listening to the CD, had lunch, and continued listening on the way home. After which I immediately wanted to start writing poetry because listening to Billy Collins just inspires you that way.
One of the poems, “The Revenant,” really resonated with me. It was from the viewpoint of a dog in the afterlife, finally confessing his true feelings about his long-time owners, words to the effect of — I never liked you. I hated the food you made me eat. I despised this. I never liked that.
You get the idea. A litany of dislikes and resentments. It made me look at my mini-doxie in a whole new light. Did she hate me? Despise the “naming of the parts” game I played with her? Hate all the silly nicknames I gave her? Did she resent my re-naming her “Munch”?

She was my mother-in-law’s dog, as I may have mentioned previously, a gift after the sudden death of mom’s then canine companion, Casey. The problem was, mom was ninety at the time, had macular degeneration, and was pretty unsteady on her legs.
So my Munchkin started out in pretty shaky circumstances: taken from her mother at 6 weeks, flown up to NY, put in the hands of strangers who then gave her to an elderly nearly blind lady who couldn’t properly care for her.

Something had to give; a year or so later, something did: mom fell, went to the hospital, and we took Midgie. At the time we had our beloved galumphing lab mix, Maggie who was about four times Midgie’s size. We honestly didn’t know what to expect. Mom always thought Midgie would be eaten alive by Maggie. But that didn’t happen.
They got along just fine. Midgie — or Munch — would chase Maggie around the kitchen-dining-living room and then hide under her legs so Maggie couldn’t find her. Or she’d climb up on the couch pillows dive bomb onto Maggie’s back. When they slept, Munch’s body language imitated Maggie’s. I really think Maggie taught Munch how to behave.

She was, as was Maggie, the Best Dog Ever. We were privileged to love her for ten years, and our beloved Maggie for twelve. We lost Maggie to cancer two years before Munch passed away a dozen days into 2011.
Munch’s was the hardest passing to bear, maybe because we’re that much older. And so, the first time in 45 years, we don’t have a dog in the house.
In truth, I’m a little scared. What will he think? What if he hates us? How will we know? And, after all, we still have memories and pictures – and a cat.
I really don’t want to wonder if Munch was happy — I think she was — I loved her to pieces, walked her, fed her, spoiled her rotten, made up songs about her, played with her — but a year after that lovely lunch in Litchfield, that Billy Collins poem continues to haunt me. I never liked you …
And still I wonder …
Did she hate me?

Do you have a pet? Would you? Wonder, I mean …]
How powerful words are.
How about you? Any pet stories to tell? Any poems that resonated on that level? Meantime, I’d seriously advise you to occasionally look deep into your pet’s eyes and try to divine what she or he is really thinking.

(You can read The Revenant on-line.)

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the USAToday best-selling author of 25 historical and contemporary romances and a dozen novellas. She’s currently working on an erotic contemporary romance. She misses her Munchkin terribly.