Book Talk

Writing Process

How to Think About Writing Prompts

I use several kinds of prompts. Most often, I use an entire poem. I see poems as secular prayer, a way of borrowing a bit of genius when I myself feel depleted. Reading a poem, or hearing it, puts me in a literary mind, a new state. I think of it as kindling; a little bit of torched wood tossed onto my log. Or the way, at a peace vigil, we hold candles and pass the flame to our neighbor.

Book Talk

Journal

Writing Process

How to Get Through Horrifying Process of Literary Agent Submissions

I have reached a critical point in the list of orderly steps in the long march to publication which I have been given by others and have dutifully written down. They are/were as follows:

1.     Write the shitty first draft
2.     Read it and make less shitty
3.     Send it to Kind & Wise Mentory Editor Who Has Read James Joyce
4.     Laugh and cry as you read her Kind & Wise suggestions; take 99% of them. Redraft.
5.     Send new draft to 28-Year-Old Editor Who Doesn’t Remember President Nixon But Is Much Smarter Than I
6.     Enjoy life with no novel to think about and write songs and poems while 28 y-o reads and edits draft.
7.     Receive edits from 28-y-o and cry for a month. Decide you are not a novelist. Pick yourself up off the carpet and have a Zoom call with her in which she tells you she had a very hard time editing your novel because it was practically perfect.
8.     Wonder if you are crazy.
9.     Take 69% of her suggestions and finish the draft.
10.  Write a synopsis which is harder than writing the novel
11.  Write the query letter which is harder than writing the synopsis
12.  Make a list of agents you’d love to work with by finding names in the acknowledgements pages of your favorite novels. Cross off the dead ones.

Book Talk

The Big Idea

Writing Process

On Point of View

Practically the first thing you need to decide when writing fiction is “who is telling this story?” Historically, we novelists have had many options. When novel-writing in English began in…

Book Talk

Journal

Writing Process

The Road and The Vaster Wilds: Anti-Odysseys (Part 3 in an ongoing series)

By happenstance, I read Cormac McCarthy’s 2007 apocalyptic novel The Road and followed it with Lauren Groff’s latest, The Vaster Wilds. It was September, technically still summer, but both of these novels take place in life-threateningly cold weather, and each author made me feel that cold, that terror of being consumed by the natural world, an awareness of the scarcity of essential resources, the distrust of other human beings–even our intimates. As I revisit these novels today, fittingly on Halloween, when the air in Massachusetts has grown chill and my body continues to fight against that novel corona virus, I find myself sharing some of these primal fears. When the terrain is unknown and the enemy invisible, who and what can we trust?

Journal

Music

Nields

River Roads

Here’s the strange thing about me: I can completely forget I’m a musician until I arrive at the gig. It’s as though that part of me is a set of clothes for another season, kept in a moth-proof box in the attic, out of mind until the weather changes.

Writing Process

On Revision

with a little help from Barbara Abercrombie and Henry David Thoreau. Revision is writing, but it’s a different kind of writing from the jagged, ebullient flow of first draft. When…

Journal

Writing Process

Autobiography in Five Sentences

It’s Day 2 of my January Retreat here in Little Blue. Every morning, I give a short prompt best done long-hand. Today’s was inspired by Melissa Febos, a brilliant writer…

30poemsinNovember

Journal

Poems

Thoughts After Listening to a Podcast Interview of Tricia Hersey

Raising a child in America is an act of violenceEverything from the crashing together of the two cells(To say nothing of the act that caused that unionWhether it involved a…

30poemsinNovember

Journal

Poems

Firstborn

This is poem #28 out of my 30 poems, and I would so so so so appreciate it if you would support the amazing organization and community at Center for New Americans. Why? Because they are a non-profit adult education center that provides the under-served immigrant, refugee and migrant communities of Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley with education and resources to learn English, become involved community members and obtain tools necessary to maintain economic independence and stability. Because love your neighbor as yourself. Because we are all neighbors. Please support my efforts by contributing to this wonderful organization via my pledge page.

30poemsinNovember

Journal

Poems

Spelunking

See the world through your new pair of glasses: 
Only what is visible 
Through this rectangle.
This is your subject. 
Now, you may travel the world
To gain a new perspective
Or you can stay home, practice spelunking.
And when your child comes to you and announces
Their path is not your path…

30poemsinNovember

Journal

Dialogue

[h/t Austin Kleon, post “Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees” here. Also inspired by quotation from AF: “My Higher Power can see everything in all directions, and I need that wisdom today.”]