Tag: Writing

Writers: Poetry Can Sharpen Your Prose

For Writers: Ten Ways Poetry Can Improve Your Prose

  1. Writing poetry develops skills of concise wording (something we editors like!).

  1. The writing (and reading) of poetry can sharpen your observation skills.

  1. Because syntax matters in poetry, you will improve in your understanding of syntax matters.

  1. Figures of speech used in poetry teach you finer subtleties of word usage and connotations and make you a better wordsmith.

  1. Poetic precision of words will sharpen your skill in choosing the most fitting, evocative, precise words for your prose.

  1. The rhythms and rhymes of poetry tune your ear to hear fluctuations and patterns in the sense and sound of language.

  1. Writing (or reading) a poem can provide a rejuvenating break from a long writing project. It may even break you out of writers block.

  1. Writing a poem can help you distill a thought, discover a kernel of truth, and find your focus on a topic to develop more fully later, in prose.

  1. A poem or short rhyme can add variety/spice/interest to a longer piece, when used in an organic way in a novel, memoir, blog post, even an expository piece of writing (and it looks good on the page).

  1. You may possibly find your calling as a poet and discover that your poetry will reach your readers’ minds and hearts more effectively than 1,000s of prose words.

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Note: On Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, I’ll be presenting a workshop on Poetry. I would love to see you there.


This list first appeared as a guest post on Marlene Bagnull’s blog “Write His Answer” at:

https://writehisanswer.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/why-write-poetry/


Photo credit:  ©David Lawton

TAKING RISKS: An Interview with author Jeanie Flierl

Since her novel is launching in early October, I want to introduce you to Jeanie. My questions are in bold. Jeanie’s answers will give you a glimpse of the heart of this warm, talented woman. Enjoy!

Welcome, Jeanie. Thank you for the opportunity to ask you a few questions. First, I’d like to know: In your novel, the main character, Tatum, is a Colorado native. Are you a native also?

No. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I moved to Colorado in my twenties because of my love for the mountains. I worked for Safeway for eleven years and met my husband, Denis, there. After home-schooling our three girls, I put all my energy into a retail store in Evergreen, Colorado. My store sells quality chocolates, nuts, and candies.

Sounds yummy. No wonder the retail shop in your novel feels so real! In fact, there’s a lot of realism in your story. What real needs do you think readers may have that your book addresses, that makes it a “must read”?

As the story unfolds, Tatum’s reactions and prayers in moments of happiness or pain reflect real feelings toward God and toward other people. She finds it’s OK to be mad at God, but she doesn’t stay there. In the end, she realizes God was with her all along, in the good and the bad. I think many people, like myself, need to learn that kind of open-hearted honesty before a loving God.

The characters in To Conquer A Mountain definitely come across as authentic. Besides your own daughters, what experience have you had with young adults in their twenties and thirties that helped you envision your book’s characters and conflicts?

Denis and I have worked together in the marriage ministry for more than twenty-five years, teaching communication skills. We have spoken at small conferences and MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) groups on related subjects.

What got you interested in Mountain Rescue? And how did you conduct your research?

I was in awe of  Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen. Their Facebook posts were so exciting that I started reading anything I could get my hands on about mountain rescues.  It is mind boggling that these mountaineers, here in Colorado, and elsewhere for that matter, are so selfless in going into the mountains, rain, shine, snow, and cold, to help people having a very bad day in the mountains. And they don’t charge anything!

I had the opportunity to visit Alpine Rescue Team and see the vehicles and equipment they use for rescues, which they purchase with donations. Later, my husband and I took a member of ART to dinner, and he regaled us with real-life incidents. I took those actual rescue stories, jumbled them together, and came up with the fictional rescues described in my novel.

What other circumstances in your life played a role in your conception of this story?

The settings of the book—in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains—have always interested me. And my point-of-view character—to whom I gave many triumphs and tragedies—has traits that I find in myself. For instance, I had to learn to take risk in my own life. That didn’t come as naturally to me as it does to some people.

Tatum learns to trust God more as she lets herself take risks. How important is faith to you?

I grew up in a Christian home and prayed to receive Jesus as my personal savior at the age of four after listening to a children’s program on Christian radio. But my faith became my own, not just what I grew up with, when I moved to Colorado. Through the ups and downs of living, the fun times and hard times of parenting, Christ has been woven into the fabric of our marriage, our children and our home life.

Tell us about your journey to become a published novelist.

My parents never had a TV in our house until I was a junior in high school. Maybe that played a role in my love of reading. Writing intrigued me, too, but I thought I could never write like the authors I loved to read. Seven years ago I decided that I would stop talking about writing a novel and finally do it. I just dove in, not realizing there was a craft to novel writing. Each writers conference I attended gave me more direction, and I’d apply what I learned. I had great encouragement and editing help along the way.

Where can your readers connect with you online?:

I look forward to interacting with my readers. I have recently started author pages:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JeanieFlierlAuthor

Twitter: @Jeanie_author

Thank you, Jeanie, for your time. I hope many readers find themselves engrossed in your story, To Conquer A Mountain. And I hope they come away from it with more desire to take the risks of living in the unique adventures and opportunities that God offers to them.

 

Quotes About Poetry

Because I value the gift, solace, and challenge of poetry, I have started collecting quotes that help illumine the process and purpose of poetry. I’ll add to the list as I find good ones, from both historical and contemporary sources. Here is what I have so far:

“To me, that’s the gift of poetry—it shapes an endless conversation about the most important things in life. … Reading poems can help bring clarity and insight to emotions that can be confusing or contradictory.” ~Caroline Kennedy

Poetry is:

“the music of the soul.” ~Voltaire

“the art of uniting pleasure with truth.” ~Samuel Johnson

“the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself.” ~William Hazlitt

[that which] “makes my body so cold no fire can warm me,” [and makes me} “feel as if the top of my head were taken off.” ~Emily Dickinson

“not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.” ~T.S. Eliot

“the breath and finer spirit of knowledge.” ~William Wordsworth

“The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.” ~Dylan Thomas

“Make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.” ~Wendell Berry

“Through poetry, [we] can inquire about the world and [our] place in it…. It is a communal form of inquiry directed towards discovering universal truths.” ~Nayeli Riano

“Poetry is, to me, the art of putting the NOW into words.” ~Gary Haddis

“What draws us to poetry is its ability to connect with us by burying ideas beneath the mere words written. Subtext is the magic that keeps us coming back. But in order for the magic to work, the text above the subtext must always remain somewhat ambiguous.” ~Greg Boyd (in regard to biblical poetry)

“Poetry calls upon us to probe our deepest emotions and longings.” ~Sharon Olds

“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” ~Robert Frost

“People who pray, need to learn poetry.” ~Eugene Peterson

“To elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.” ~Edgar Allen Poe

“A good poet tries to lead you into universal experience by leading you into a shot of concrete experience–one flower, one frog…That’s what it takes to pull you into the depth of everything.” ~Richard Rohr

“Poetry, like faith, can look at the back as well as the front of reason; it can survey reason all round.” ~Charles Williams

“Poetry, in capturing the moment, captures the soul.” ~Mary Harwell Sayler

“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.” ~E.E. Cummings

 

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

Mtns-at-CCWC-2013

The view of the Rocky Mountains from one of the buildings at Colorado Christian Writers Conference

Looking to attend a Writers Conference? Consider the wonderful setting, great staff and faculty, and nurturing atmosphere of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference May 17-20 in Estes Park, Colorado. It’s coming soon—next week, in fact. We’ll be there, meeting with prospective authors and teaching workshops. We’d like to meet you there.

A few other reasons to attend:

  • Marlene Bagnull is the director (You can listen to an interview with Marlene on blog talk radio, http://ow.ly/JI3lY )
  • Large Faculty of agents, editors, and authors
  • Four free 15-minute appointments with faculty of your choice (including Cathy Lawton of Cladach Publishing)
  • Fiction Clinic w/Tracie & Jim Peterson author 100+ books
  • Nonfiction Book Clinic with Craig Bubeck
  • Writing Powerful Narrative Nonfiction with Sherri Langton
  • Speakers’ Clinic with KPOF radio personality Roy Hanschke
  • Author interviews & booksigning Thursday evening
  • and many more …

Check it out: May 17-20, 2017 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. http://colorado.writehisanswer.com

Susan Roberts Interview

 

Are you listening, in prayer, to what the Lord may be asking you to do? Are you watching for His answers? Susan Roberts describes how saying “Yes” to the Lord led her on an adventure of devotional discoveries. I interviewed Susan to find out why and how she wrote Everywhere I Look, God Is There.

Christian Writers and Editors are Window Washers

Yes, so aware these days that “darkly we peer through the glass.” Praying for “vision to transcend the obstructive…”

CLADACH Publishing

WINDOW WASHER

We need to perceive the Truth.

Yet, darkly we peer through the glass.

Clean me for use

Free me to serve

Lift me to reach

That I may wash windows for You.

Wrong doctrine obscures

Gray living besmears

Raw weather, it blurs

The pane on this side.

Provide a soft cloth—not abrasive

The vision to transcend the obstructive

And courage to rub for perfection

Searching

Editing

Polishing

Till, through one clear corner,

Someone sees You.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

—Catherine Lawton

from the book,Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems © 2017


Photo: (c) Can Stock Photo / Ghen

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A Checklist to Make Your Writing Shine

A marshy field in Colorado

This marshy field teems with life. When our car speeds by it, though, we don’t notice or experience the wildlife hidden in the grasses, wading in the mud, singing from the reeds. One day we stopped our car, rolled down windows; looked through binoculars; listened, felt, smelled; tasted the breezes. Myriads of bird life, colors, textures of fauna and flora brought the place alive to us. Good writing does that also: draws in the reader, reveals hidden things, opens possibilities.

I taught from the following list at a recent writers workshop. Afterwards, a couple of wide-eyed writers said to me, “You really want good writing.”

Well, yes, I do! The better-written a manuscript comes to me, the more I like it. Here at Cladach we may resonate with the premise and material of a nonfiction manuscript—we may like a novel’s characters and plot—so much that we are willing to devote the editing time needed to bring the writing quality and style up to these standards. We may ask an author to go back and re-write/revise/re-work a manuscript. Then we also do in-house macro editing, line editing, and copy editing. The following list gives most of the elements of style and “good writing” that we look for in a manuscript and strive for in the books we publish.

Here’s how to give your writing pizzazz so readers will want to invest in it, engage with it—be entertained, convinced, and inspired by what you say. Check your writing against this list to make sure it communicates as clearly and persuasively as possible.

 1.  Have you written from your heart as well as your mind? (If not, read this post. If yes, go on to the rest of the list.)

 2.  Write in the active voice. Choose strong, active verbs.

 3.  Write concretely, rather than abstractly. Show, don’t just tell. Appeal to all the senses.

 4.  In nonfiction as well as fiction, use storytelling as much as possible.

 5.  Stay in a definite, consistent POV. Through whose eyes is the reader seeing?

 6.  Hook the reader on the first page/ first paragraph/ first sentence/ first word.

 7.  Keep the reader’s attention as each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each chapter leads to the next.

 8.  Maintain a logical or chronological flow of thought or action. Use transitions when needed.

 9.  Strive for precision and conciseness. Cut extraneous/ repetitious words and phrases. Less is more.

10.  Give thought to word choices—consider subtleties, connotations, nuances; find the zing and zest of the right word.

11.  Vary sentence structure and length. Use periodic sentences often (as in these examples).

12.  Search for and remove troublesome words that hide like gremlins in your writing, words that are used compulsively but often aren’t needed. (Click here for my list.)

13.  Use your ear. Do the sentences flow well? In fiction, is that how people sound when they talk? Try reading your writing out loud.

Search, Find, Delete These Word Gremlins

“Front Yard Discovery,” a collage by Mark Fraley, from the book “Creation of Calm” © 2014

These troublesome words tend to hide like gremlins in our writing (especially in fiction, but also nonfiction).

We often use these words compulsively, but often they aren’t needed.

Remember, less is more. Conciseness makes better, stronger, clearer writing.

Do a search for—and delete unnecessary uses of—the following:

  • very
  • just
  • that
  • nice
  • interesting
  • look / looked (at)
  • like
  • then
  • begin / began / beginning
  • started / started to
  • take / took
  • seem / seemed

Were you surprised how many of these words showed up in your article, blog post, or book manuscript (especially a novel)?

Do you have other words on your personal list for keeping gremlins out of your polished drafts?

Interview with Historical-Fiction Author John Buzzard

Christina Slike talked with John Buzzard, author of the new historical novel, That Day by the Creek, which is a Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award finalist.

john1

Here, in Q/A form, is their conversation:

CS:  Hello, John. I’m wondering what inspired you to write a novel based on the events of the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 Colorado?

JB:  I’ve been interested in the story since I was a child and saw the painting by Robert Lindneux in a book. Even at that young age I could tell something was wrong with Indians displaying the American flag while being attacked by American troops.  About five years ago I read Stan Hoig’s 1961 book, listed in every bibliography of Sand Creek publications. I couldn’t help but wonder what was the reaction of the Christian community in America at the time, especially the missionaries sent to the Cheyenne reservation.

CS: You blend fact and fiction skillfully. What offered you the most challenge in writing That Day by the Creek?

JB: Early on I realized I was writing an incredibly violent story for a Christian publisher and wondered if the climactic event of the massacre would survive the editing process. To Cladach’s credit everything remained intact. The atrocities I describe all came from eye-witness accounts and what is there is only a mere fraction of what occurred. Not to include the horrific acts would not do the story justice.

CS: Well, you weren’t graphic in your depictions. As you say, it is what happened. You balanced the tragedy with lighter fictional characters and scenes. That brings me to my next question: Which fictional character do you wish was real?

JB: Porcupine Pete, of course. It would be great to sit around a campfire some night with family and listen to his tales of living with the Indians and trekking through the Rockies. Surprisingly, he was an easy character to come up with. I didn’t want to just throw Josh out into the wilderness by himself. I don’t think he would have lasted out there too long.  Having a mountain man who is like a fish out of water while around government bureaucrats and politicians, but perfectly comfortable in the formidable mountains, seemed a natural choice. That’s how I came up with Porcupine. I am kind of curious how he survived wrestling that grizzly bear on a cliff edge.

CS: Porcupine Pete is my favorite character, too! What fun it would be to listen to his stories. … Then, of all the historical characters in That Day by the Creek, which would you choose to talk with, and why?

JB: I have two answers to that question. First is Making Medicine. During my research I found his biography, a real gem. I would love to hear his story and look at his artwork. Second is Silas Soule, even though he had a tragic end. Anyone who has been in the military knows what a serious offense it is to disobey an order from a superior officer, especially in the heat of battle. He was essentially ordered to murder women and children, and he refused, and ordered the men under him to do likewise.  In the end it cost him his life.

CS: Did you bring any of your own life experiences into this novel?

JB: I wasn’t sure how to describe the wedding between Josh and Sunflower, so I used details from my own. My wife Eva and I had a simple Catholic wedding in the Philippines at the hotel where we were staying. Afterwards, friends and family members brought in dishes of food and we had a real nice potluck.

CS:  Do you have plans to write more novels? Maybe a sequel?

JB:  Of course. I’m about four chapters into a historical novel about the Pleasant Valley Cattle War that took place in central Arizona in the 1880s. If Cladach Publishing asked me to write a sequel to That Day by the Creek I would certainly be interested.

CS: Sounds great. Here’s another question: Where do you write? Describe your writing space. What helps you focus and stay inspired?

JB: I have a spacious office at the house here in Tucson, aka “the man cave.” A large, L-shaped desk holds my computer and other accessories. Shelves are filled with books, CDs and DVDs. One shelf holds Bibles and concordances. The room also has a TV, stereo, and a hide-a-bed couch for overnight guests. Often the stereo is tuned to K-LOVE to keep a sense of spiritual peace in the room. The door to the rest of the house is always open, so my wife Eva or our German shepherd Rocky can enter at any time. I can’t stay focused on a writing project that starts to get boring. If it’s boring for me to write, it will be boring for someone to read. When the pace starts to slow, I add another element to keep things interesting, which usually keeps me inspired.

CS: Do you have any upcoming author appearances online?

JB:  Yes, I recently gave an in-depth interview to fiction writer Faith Parsons on her blog.

CS: Thanks, John. Readers can know you a little better now. We look forward to further stories and inspiring plot twists coming out of your time in the writer-man cave!


Christina0407Christina Slike assists in editing and marketing at Cladach Publishing.

A Writer’s (Tongue-in-Cheek) Checklist

CCWC Editors and Agents Panel 2016

Are editors always this long-faced? 🙂 Maybe we have all seen too many proposals and manuscripts with these errors in them. (See the list below.) In this photo, I’m sitting in the middle of a panel of book editors and agents at CCWC May 2016. We’re all considering a serious question posed by a conferee. But plenty of light, humorous moments occurred at the conference also–and lots of encouragement and inspiration, as well.

One constantly-recurring theme for writers is that we must strive for clarity. To that end, at my workshop on “A Checklist for Writers” I shared my list of writing techniques. Then I offered this bonus “checklist” that uses tongue-in-cheek humor to help us avoid murky writing.
(This list comes from Professor Howard Culbertson at Southern Nazarene University, and I use it with his permission.)

  1. Don’t use no double negatives.

  2. About them sentence fragments.

  3. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

  4. Between you and I, case is important.

  5. Do not submit writing in email or cell phone text format — thx!

  6. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

  7. Use your apostrophe’s correctly. Omit the apostrophe when its not needed.

  8. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

  9. Of course, if any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

  10. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.

  11. A writer must not shift your point of view.

  12. Avoid clichés like the plague. They’re old hat. So, go around the barn at high noon to avoid clichés and colloquialisms.

  13. Do not be redundant and keep repeating yourself; do not use more words than necessary; eliminate the superfluous in your writing.

  14. One should NEVER generalize.

  15. Be more or less specific.

  16. And avoid starting sentences with a conjunction.

  17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

  18. Don’t use commas, that are not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

  19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed. So, take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.

  20. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

  21. Be careful to use the write homonym.

  22. DO NOT use multiple exclamation points and all caps to EMPHASIZE a point!!!!!!!!

  23. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.

  24. Proofread your writing to see if you any words out.

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