Tag: Writing

Dogs, Humor and Poetry?

My dog Jasper loves taking walks and spending time with me in my gardens. He doesn’t even know he is mentioned in some of my books and poems, but I think he would approve. He would also approve of this fun thing that arrived in the mail this week: a recognition for a humorous canine poem in my mostly otherwise serious collection of poetry, Glimpsing Glory.

Do “humor” and “poetry” go together in your mind?

Well, we might ask, why do we write and read poems, anyway? I found a few famous answers to the question “why 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 love sickness.” ~Robert Frost
“People who pray, need to learn poetry.” ~Eugene Peterson
“To elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.” ~Edgar Allen Poe

I think most of my poems in Glimpsing Glory do reflect “a homesickness, a love sickness,” they “probe deepest emotions and longings,” and express a kind of “prayer.” But sometimes we need our hearts lifted and loads lightened as well as our souls elevated, something to help us tilt our heads and look at circumstances with a different perspective. Sometimes everyday experiences cause my sense of humor to erupt in fun poems. When these are included in a volume of poetry, they are like lucky limericks teasing Irish elegies or perky wildflowers surprising in cultivated gardens. These things I find delightful, and I hope my readers do also.

Do you have a favorite humorous poem that brings a smile to your face and quickens your step? Perhaps it’s a folk song or ditty, or a poem like this one for which I received the above recognition:

CANINE SOCIAL MEDIA

My dog, Jasper, reads
pee mail with his nose.
And he’s a dexterous texter
as he lifts four toes.

Some moms dole out tech time;
but me? I give trek time.
Each bush, post, and bench
offers doggy wifi.

When he wiggles and whines
and starts to holler,
I lace up my shoes, click
the links of his collar.

When he meets other dogs, it’s
‘Will you be my friend?
Follow me in the net-erhood,
my hashtag’s a trend.’

Dogs carry screen names
on their behinds;
Cuz that’s where they sniff,
their profiles to find.

With his nose he scans lawns
for the latest chatter
from cute Lily on the corner
or Bruce the Irish Setter.

–Catherine Lawton

Here’s to soul-elevating and prayerful, as well as playful poetry!

~Catherine Lawton

 

Poetry Helps Us Open Our Hearts to God

Poetry Helps Us Open Our Hearts to God

by Catherine Lawton

In our experience of God’s presence, poetry can help us focus and engage our senses and entire being. Poetry can help us process life and emotions—and see ourselves—in new ways, and thus be open to hearing God say fresh, new things to us. Scripture does this also, of course. In fact, much of the Bible was written as poetry. I have long found soul nourishment and renewed perspective in the Psalms. And how can a person read Song of Solomon and not believe God seeks to woo and reach us through the five senses he has given us? The prophet Isaiah wrote often in poetry. Sometimes poetic expression reaches straight to the heart more effectively than prose.

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

I believe God still speaks through poets today. Sometimes with a prophetic voice. Sometimes imparting wisdom. Sometimes bringing clarity. Sometimes lifting the soul to hope and love.

Even if you think you aren’t, you probably are more “into” poetry than you realize. Song lyrics are a type of poetry. Along with the instruments and voices, the words of songs can pierce or soothe our hearts as well as our minds.

Voltaire called poetry “the music of the soul.”

On World Poetry Day (March 21) and every day I encourage you to begin the practice of including poetry in your devotional reading, meditative prayer, quiet times, and soul care.

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

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to these comments from readers who have found poems help them focus on, and open their hearts to, God’s presence and love:

“In our own seasons of suffering, [these poems give us] words to explain the pain, to cry out to God, or to get a grip on our faith.” –Elaine Wright Colvin (after reading I Cry Unto You, O Lord by Sarah Suzanne Noble

“This book is a steady and wise companion for those who read the Bible with real devotion and honest questions.” –Connie Wanek (after reading Bible Poems by Donna Marie Merritt)

Each one [of these poems] lifts my heart towards God. They have become a part of my morning devotions.–Bev Coons (reader of PRAISE! Poems by Mary Harwell Sayler)

“So many of the poems provided moments of prayer for me.” ~Jimmie Kepler (speaking of Glimpsing Glory by Catherine Lawton)

Poetry, and all the feelings it represents, connects us to all of humanity’s longings and searchings for God. Here is one of my favorite poems of devotion, written by Irish poet Thomas Moore, about 200 years ago:

MY GOD! SILENT TO THEE!

As, down in the sunless retreats of the ocean,

  Sweet flowers are springing no mortal can see,

So, deep in my heart, the still prayer of devotion,

  Unheard by the world, rises, silent, to Thee,

     My God! Silent, to Thee,—

     Pure, warm, silent, to Thee.

As still to the start of its worship, though clouded,

  The needle points faithfully o-er the dim sea,

So, dark as I roam, thro’ this wintry world shrouded,

  The hope of my spirit turns, trembling, to Thee,

     My God! Trembling, to Thee,—

     True, fond, trembling, to Thee.

–Thomas Moore

 

On hopeful paths of prayer and poetry,

~Catherine Lawton


(Photo by Thomas Jay Oord. Used with permission.)

(This post was revised and expanded from one I first published here in 2018. In this form, it first appeared on the Godspace Blog to celebrate World Poetry Day, 2023).

 

 

Full Circle: Capturing Imaginations, Hearts and Minds

 

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 syntactic 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.

∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼


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

Meet Jeanie Flierl, author of the novel, To Conquer A Mountain. My questions are in color. Jeanie’s answers will give you a glimpse of the heart of this warm, talented woman.


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:

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

“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

“In poetry the words are the body and the ‘theme’ or ‘content’ is the soul.” ~C.S. Lewis

“A poet is a man who is glad of something and tries to make other people glad of it, too.” ~George MacDonald (in his novel, At the Back of the North Wind)

“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)

“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

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, usually held in May in Estes Park, Colorado. We love going there, meeting with prospective authors, and presenting workshops. We’d like to meet you there. (We have met several of our authors 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
  • Free appointments with faculty of your choice

Some examples of great workshops in recent years:

  • Fiction Clinic w/Tracie & Jim Peterson, author 100+ books
  • Nonfiction Book Clinic with Craig Bubeck
  • Writing Powerful Narrative Nonfiction with Sherri Langton
  • Marketing for Introverts by yours truly, Catherine Lawton
  • Speakers’ Clinic with KPOF radio personality Roy Hanschke

Not to mention:

  • Author book signing Thursday evening
  • Uplifting worship times
  • Making friends and networking with other Christian writers.

Hope to see you there!

On hopeful paths of prayer and poetry,

~Catherine Lawton

Learn about this year’s conference:  http://colorado.writehisanswer.com

Susan Roberts Interview

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVM_NFdV7Ag?rel=0&w=640&h=360%5D

 

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.

A Checklist to Make Your Writing Shine

A marshy field in Colorado

The marshy field in this photo 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.