Monday Coffee: Summer Challenge Results

Gmatta ancient arabic coffee kettle570x720mmI loved every entry in our Brighter Light Summer Challenge. Each one made me feel so summery, warm and glow-y. I was originally planning on picking one “kid-participation” winner and one “grown-up alone” winner, but I had a terrible time deciding. But at last, after a nice pot for warm, sweet coffee, I’ve managed to pick three poems as our challenge winners. Our “kid” team prize is divided between:

Dr. Pearl and her grandgirls for “My Summer” AND Michele and her girls Skyler Ide and Elizabeth for their beautiful “In the Midst of Summer.”

And our Adult Alone winner is Barbara Ehrentreu for “Summer on the Beach,” which won me with the clincher, “It’s
a young person’s sport and I remember the summers when
the day was over and I packed up things herding children
smelling like sun tan lotion toward their dinner.”

I also have to give a special shout-out to SEIngraham, whose “Summertime in Edmonton” inspired me to ask her to talk with me about parenting and poetry (see an upcoming post) and Linda H., because I am totally allergic to mosquitoes and her poem really got how ANNOYING they are 🙂

We’ll be following with interviews and/or profiles of our winners – thank you everyone who participated; you’re the heart and soul of this blog ❤

Ina

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Friday surprise: grow, eat, write

Homemade tartIt’s getting toward the end of strawberry season here in California. The neighborhood kids have all-day pink mustaches, and the farmer’s market has ruby red heaps of almost-too-ripe berries that you can smell when you’re within a block of the fruit awning. Friends who are good at making preserves buy them in huge baskets and months from now, we’ll get jam in pretty glass jars for birthdays and Christmas.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor here for writing: transforming beauty and simplicity into something sumptuous and delicious. Or maybe it’s about growing things. I found this article in my email inbox last week, about how Charles Goodrich grows not just plants but poems in his garden, how his relationship to gardens is also his relationship to words and to writing. He’s a creator of edible things – both literally and metaphorically.  Which is what Eat This Poem is looking for in their first annual poetry contest. There is lots of gorgeous writing about food (from Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table to Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin) out there for inspiration, so if you love to write about food…here’s a great chance in a new venue. And if you’re a little shy about entering contests (I am, largely because of the cost), Nat Towers just passed on some good advice on his blog about how to decide whether a contest is worth it that you might want to check out. Regardless, however, of the particular creative endeavors you’re approaching this weekend, I hope something luscious and joyful is part of it~ Ina

Morangos - Strawberries - Flickr - Adriano Aurelio Araujo

Connections : A day in the life of Bonnie G. Vaughan

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Bonnie G. Vaughan

This is our first post of our “Day In The Life” series, in which we interview authors of books released through small or independent publishers. Today, I’m delighted to post my pre-publication interview with Bonnie G. Vaughan, whose novel Spaceborn was released by Black Opal Books last week.

Bonnie became fascinated with space travel when the first lunar lander took off from the moon. A journalist and award-winning tech writer, Ms. Vaughan has had many opportunities to tell the stories of others, writing her own science fiction stories on weekends. She received technical advice from Dr. Harrison Schmitt, the geologist who walked on the moon, for Spaceborn. I’ve just finished reading Spaceborn this weekend, and I’m hoping to get a chance to ask Bonnie some follow up questions later this summer.

IOB: Will you describe your typical “writing day” for us? When does writing happen? where?  How does it get fit in to the rest of life’s activities? Anything else make a part of your “typical” day with writing?

BGV:  I like to write the first hour of the morning, before work or weekend activities, while my conscious mind is still close to my subconscious. Often I get up as early as 5 a.m. to make time for writing my stories. Research happens mainly on weekends or evenings.

IOB: It sounds like a lot of your creative work happens in those morning hours. Does editing happen at those times too? Or does that happen more during research hours?

BGV: The editing to me is rewriting, so I usually do that in the morning hour. I’ve learned over the years, though, that I can write almost any time and anywhere—on a baseball field waiting for my son’s game to start, in our Corvette on the way from San Jose to LA, in an airport terminal or a doctor’s waiting room, and in my office all night if I have a deadline. Even 15 minutes is enough to accomplish something. My favorite time and place is early morning with a laptop in my easy chair.

IOB: It also sounds as if, like many writers, you spend time balancing your work/family life with your writing life. Do you have advice for other writers on achieving that balance successfully?

BGV: You always have time to write. If you’re doing something else, it’s a higher priority to you.  For me, only time with family and friends is a higher priority, and I still need my day job. Finding enough time for what’s important to you can be tricky if you have to earn a living. I’ve taken jobs that allow flexible work schedules and telecommuting so I could write in the morning and pick up my children after school. Steve Hamilton, author of the Alex McNight detective series, who was in my technical writing department at IBM, told me he wrote his stories after his children went to bed at 9 p.m. A poet friend once said, “Take some time for yourself each day, to do what you love, even if it’s only 15 minutes.”

IOB: On your site (www.bonniegvaughan.com) you mention that you were first intrigued by space travel when the first lunar lander took off from the moon. Was it that event that inspired you to start writing fiction?

BGV: Classic literature inspired me when I was in high school and liked to read novels for an hour before school. My first stories emulated Edgar Allan Poe. I told my Aunt Verna that when I saw a blank page, I wanted to fill it up. She said, “You’re going to be a writer.”

IOB:  I’m really looking forward to Spaceborn and particularly intrigued by the premise: the main character, Morgan Zeller, is pregnant, and her pregnancy a key feature of the novel. How did you come to conceive of (no pun intended) Morgan and her interesting situation?

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Click picture to purchase; please note that inourbooks receives no renumeration for sale of this item

BGV: One day I asked myself, “What if an astronaut discovered she was pregnant on the way to Mars?” The story grew from that.

IOB:  Any other “what ifs” you’ve had recently that you could share with us?

BGV: What if a boy discovers intelligent life on his colony planet and has to expose the planet’s governor for colonizing an inhabited world? What if people establish an independent colony on Mars and the government tries to take away their Martian homes? What if lizard-like visitors are luring people to leave Earth for a colony on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and a pregnant engineer learns that her friends are dying in alien mines there?

IOB: I’m always impressed at the range of people and resources successful authors find for support. Where do you find your writing support systems? Do you have a writing community or communities that you interact with?

BGV: All of my friends and family are supportive, especially my son, Chris Vaughan, who has always encouraged me to write my own stories. My mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill, and her friends have been my writing community over the last several years. I took several fiction courses from her and like to attend conferences where she is speaking.

IOB: What advice would you give to other writers who are working on a first novel?

BGV: Read Digital Ink: Writing Killer Fiction in the E-book Age by Bonnie Hearn Hill and Christopher Allan Poe, write every day, read lots of novels, and find a mentor.

IOB: What did you find to be the most relaxing part of drafting Spaceborn? The most difficult part of writing a novel? What were the hardest parts of reworking the novel for submission? How do you overcome challenges in the writing and rewriting processes?

BGV: The most relaxing part of writing for me is when I start a book and put all of my initial ideas for the story into words. Rather than outline, this first draft is mainly a summary, with some scenes that occurred to me as I was writing it. I let my subconscious produce whatever it wants to get the book started. The most difficult for me is the final rewriting and polishing because I want to fix everything. The hardest part is reworking the beginning to make an agent or editor want to keep reading. When I get stuck, I give myself permission to write garbage, as Natalie Goldberg said, and the words flow again.

IOB: I love Natalie Goldberg – I find her so supportive! It sounds like there are a couple of authors who have inspired your work – where else do you find inspiration?

BGV: Since the day after I graduated from high school, I’ve been inspired by astronauts, who are my heroes. After grad night at Disneyland, my mother surprised me with a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings about the space program, which she’d been saving for years. Then she made me stay awake to watch astronaut Ed White take the first American spacewalk.

I’m also inspired by everything around me–a hummingbird’s flight, the planets and stars in the night sky, they way people interact with each other, sunsets, moonrises, news about space exploration, movies like “Roving Mars” and “Contact,” children laughing and playing, discussions with brilliant engineers, bonds between family members and friends, the variety of life on Earth, and new technologies like the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

IOB: If you could have had any author, living or dead, to help you with the process of editing drafts of this novel, who would it have been?

BGV: Other than Bonnie Hearn Hill, I would love to work with the late Anne McCaffrey, who has been my favorite author since I met her in Berkeley, California, where she was on a panel of women writers. I love her Dragonriders of Pern series.

IOB: What would you tell other writers about the pros and cons of working with a smaller publishing company?

BGV: So far working with Black Opal Books is great. The staff encourages new authors. The editors do excellent work, and they tell me they like Spaceborn. They seem to care about authors. Maybe spending a lot of time on promotion is a con, but I understand authors also do this at large publishing companies.

IOB: My mother-in-law was just telling me how shocked she is at how much more publicity work she’s expected to do now than when she published her first book. What sorts of publicity have they encouraged you to pursue? And how do you fit it into your already tough schedule?

BGV: They have encouraged me to do blog interviews, press releases, book signings, and other appearances. I do as much as I can and try to fit it in with my other activities, like scheduling a book signing during vacation. The first promotion I did was in February at a National Association of American Pen Women luncheon that I had already planned to attend. For part of the program, the luncheon organizer wanted three members to speak as Pen Women of the past, present, and future, so for a few minutes I spoke as astrogeologist Morgan Zeller, the main character in Spaceborn.

IOB: Can readers follow you on Twitter?

BGV: I would like them to follow me on Twitter : @bonniev and @spacebornishere

IOB:  Do you have future writing plans, and if so, would you give us a hint about what we might be hearing about you next?

BGV: My plans are to write many more novels and short stories. I will be coauthoring a young adult science fiction book with my son, Chris. I have also started two other books, one science fiction and the other set in the 1950’s.

I am also doing research for the sequel to Spaceborn. As part of the research, I’m going to the Mars Society international convention August 15-18 at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

IOB:  Wow! Sounds like you’re busy, which makes me doubly appreciative of the time you’ve given me and inourbooks.com readers. Thanks again, Bonnie, and best wishes for the success of Spaceborn!

BGV: Thank you, Ina, for the opportunity to talk to you and your readers.

Inspirations, exhortations, and announcements.

Pounce! (383617744)My son had a preschool friend with  a huge vocabulary that didn’t fit in her little mouth. Sometimes to get past that, she used her own versions of words. Instead of “announcements,”  she said “a-pounce-ments.”

“I haf a apouncement about my bithday party!”

It’s been a few years now, but I secretly hope she still uses “apouncements” sometimes.

Opportunity is supposed to knock. Sometimes, though, it feels more like a little chance that hangs out on the lawn, waves to passersby, maybe sends a few texts…So instead of waiting for it to knock, we have to pounce on it before it wanders off to get a Slurpee or something.

Having material ready for those opportunities is half the battle. I got a  jolt of energy from Margaret’s  interview with Joan Hamilton. Joan’s someone who can make moments into opportunities; it’s worth reading the interview if you’re in need of inspiration.

In our poll a few weeks ago, the most frequently mentioned creative goal  for the summer was to write/paint/act/film/ more. Summer prompts and practices abound. I’ve been using some of Poetic Bloomings’ Life’s a Beach prompts – it’s only day 12, and there are already so many great things to write about. I also think I mentioned one of my  fave annual writing events is coming up, the August Postcard Poem Festival; it’s a freeing, connecting experience that helps me create a lot of new writing. And Poets and Writers’ Weekly fiction and poetry prompts – really thoughtful and you can go through archives to find extras.

Gillie pouncing (2292639076)Lastly, a couple of a-pounce-ments from inourbooks. If you were one of the young authors in the Brighter Light contest, keep an eye on your mail the next few weeks 🙂 And if you contributed to the Brighter Light Summer Prompt challenge, I haven’t made a final decision because I pretty much like every poem that came in, but I’ll be contacting you-all before next Wednesday. And next Wednesday, we’ll have an interview with author Barbara Vaughan, whose first novel was just released this week by Black Opal Press, on how she made it happen.

And now, I’m going to listen to my own advice and write ~ Ina

Writers on Wednesdays: Margaret interviews Joan O’C Hamilton

Joan O’C Hamilton hit the ground running as a journalist.  Shortly after graduating from Stanford University, she joined BusinessWeek, where she developed the biotech beat, worked as the San Francisco bureau chief and wrote a column about Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom.  From there, as she explains in her interview, she moved into co-authoring books by such movers and shakers as former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Kamala Harris, current California attorney general. ~ Margaret Young

Joan  in Malawi, 2012, interviewing women farmers

Joan in Malawi, 2012, interviewing women farmers

MY: I was once told you made a really early start as a journalist — in that as a high-school student in San Francisco, you decided to cover the Dan White trial. Is this true — and if so, what was it like and were you born with that kind of gumption?

JH: I did do that but there was gumption beyond my own involved.   I went to ICA [editor: Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco] in the Mission District.  Dan White had a lot of connections to our school – many of his female relatives were alums, and he had actually been our graduation speaker the spring the same year he shot Mayor Moscone.   ICA girls worked at the “Hot Potato” which was his business at Pier 39.

I went to the trial because we had an incredibly cool and wise Dominican nun who taught our government class, and she sent us to watch the trial one afternoon as a field trip.   I saw a television reporter there named Joyce Shank who covered the trial every day, and so after I wrote my story for the school newspaper, I sent it to her in a self-addressed stamped envelope and told her I wanted to be a reporter and asked if she could she give me some feedback and criticism.  A few days later I got a multi-page, handwritten letter back from her going through the story paragraph by paragraph with great advice.  And then she called me to talk about it and asked if I’d like to babysit her 5 year-old son.  Long story short: She became a huge force in my life, encouraging me in journalism, recommending me for jobs, connecting with me at Stanford when she or other Channel 7 reporters needed help on a story.  She just died a couple of years ago, unfortunately.  Joyce was my first mentor even though I was much more comfortable working in print than TV news, and we became very close friends.

MY: For many years you were a correspondent for BusinessWeek, focused mostly, but not entirely, on biotech. Then you made a switch to co-authoring memoirs by well-known movers and shakers such as Meg Whitman. How big a transition was it?

whitman.COAUTHORJH: The transition was not something I planned.  I did do biotech and many other subjects, including wine, retailing, sports, and industrial design.  But the last beat I covered at Business Week was writing a satirical column about the “dot-com” lifestyle in Silicon Valley.  The column led to book projects with dot-com entrepreneurs, then an agent, and then things snowballed when I ended up ghostwriting a NYT [editor’s note: New York Times] bestseller for someone I can’t name.
 I loved magazine journalism and had a ball writing that column, but I had two young children and the book opportunities arose at the same time Business Week ad sales went into a death spiral and most of the columns were axed.  The flexibility and new income from books was terrific.

Fortunately, I discovered that I was good at writing in other peoples’ “voices.”   It turns out a lot of reporters who try to work with people on books have trouble with that.  They are so used to an objective voice and it is really difficult for them to channel the author.  Also, with my news magazine background, I can create a structure to convey complex material quickly, and I can advise my clients with some authority on what readers need to understand and connect to a message.  If you’re trying to sell a mass market book, it can’t read like a speech to a trade group or your customers or employees where everybody knows the same buzzwords.

MY:  Is it difficult when the client’s point of view differs from yours?

JH: Frankly, no.   I will only work for clients who are truthful and sincere and who I respect.  That becomes clear very early — some people lie and exaggerate to an astounding degree and I have walked away from a number of projects.  But I don’t pick clients on the basis of my agenda or politics or point of view. Writing these books is an intense process; it’s like signing up to go on a year-long cruise with someone so you better like and respect him or her.  But you don’t have to agree about everything.  I’d much rather work with a smart person with a good sense of humor with different views than mine, than with some humorless self-promoter whose voting card matches mine line for line.  Besides, sometimes I learn something that changes my mind.

MY:  You still free-lance for magazines — do you see yourself doing a long form journalism book at some point instead of memoirs?

JH: It’s possible. Actually, I don’t think of myself as working on memoirs per se—Kamala Harris’ bookSmart_on_Crime was a myth-busting book about crime, and Meg Whitman’s book was about the values she thinks are important for success.  I am just finishing a project that tackles a huge global issue with my client’s new ideas for reforming the status quo.  All these books are told through the eyes of a particular person, but they aren’t chronological narratives; they have the goal of inspiring people to do something or think differently.

Journalism is my first love and gave me the skills I’m using today.   I have been a contributing editor at Stanford Magazine for over 20 years and I get to write feature stories about an incredible variety of subjects and people, from psycholinguistics to profound battle injuries to private chefs.  Every once in a while I dig into a subject that makes me consider if it could make a good book, but I also wonder if I would get weary of working one subject like that for a long time.  It’s a pretty lonely business and the best of those non-fiction books can take many years to write with uncertain financial prospects, especially these days.  I have great respect for those who do them.

In my book work today, I do not approach it as a journalist.  I enjoy bringing an important mission or worthwhile set of ideas to life for someone who is busy doing what he or she does and does not have time or perhaps the writing experience to do the book efficiently alone. It’s fun to be part of a team in that sense.    I’m blessed that I have worked with very intelligent, principled people who are trying to make the world better.   Kamala Harris and Meg Whitman, for example, are extraordinary, inspiring women.

MY: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about book writing?

JH: I think my answer only applies to my strange little corner of non-fiction book collaboration.

I am always surprised by peoples’ perceptions of where books come from or how they are written.  So many people (typically ones I don’t end up working for) underestimate how difficult the book process is.  Some successful people assume that because they want to say something, people automatically want to read it.  They forget that publishing a book means selling a product.  I’ve had prospective clients hand me a six-inch stack of clips and speeches and background papers as if I can then just go off and reorganize all that and then we’ll drop in a few quotes and be done.  That won’t work.  We are asking the public to buy these books, and we need to sell them the opportunity to be smarter and wiser. You can’t just repurpose a stack of speeches or annual reports or tell the same story the same way you tell it at cocktail parties.  I sometimes tell my clients, “You can’t build an ocean liner by lashing together 100 speedboats.”

Books need to be built to last and we’re competing with a jillion other information and entertainment options. In the writing we need to sell an engaging, rewarding experience, and we need to manage the energy and surprises to keep the reader turning the pages.  We’re working with a long lead time and I can’t let the author stick his or her neck out with risky predictions or over-reactions to the news of any given day. And just because we have more space we can’t just prattle on forever and go into mind-numbing detail. The reader will bail out.

Often the interesting connective tissue of books involves motivation—why someone made a decision and what he or she wants next.  Many prominent, busy people aren’t used to their staffs or employees asking them WHY they did something or how they FELT about it.    But those emotionally charged factors can be important in terms of what we put in and leave out.  My clients are surprised sometimes at the background and subject matter we need to cover even when we decide not to use that material.

MY:  Journalism and publishing in general have been turned topsy-turvy in the past several years. What would you tell your daughter if she said she wanted a career like yours?

JH: It is tough out there (yes, a penetrating glimpse of the obvious).  Some of the best journalists I know have had to change careers.  In terms of advice, I think as a young person you need to show that you’re willing to work hard and that you want to learn.  It’s very important to make personal connections so that professionals a few rungs up the career ladder WANT to help you.  That was invaluable to me.  I know how important it was when my friend Joyce encouraged me and I have tried to do that for several young journalists over the years who showed me they were really serious about the business.  I’m proud that one went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.  Journalists are very competitive but we’re also very passionate about our work and the need for good reporting and we like to help young people who have a fire in the belly for it.

I have to say it bothers me that journalism schools are still charging a fortune for masters degrees in a field with fewer and fewer jobs.  There is a magazine class at a very prestigious journalism school that I speak to every year. It’s always over-subscribed with a waiting list.   I ask:  “Where do you all see yourselves working?”  And they invariably say, “I want to write investigative features for a national magazine,” or “I want to write cover stories for the New York Times magazine.”  It’s the same answer I would have given in 1983 when I left Stanford, but the opportunities to do that are nothing like they were then (and it wasn’t exactly an easy goal then).  I hope for their sake journalism will rebuild itself and find a sustainable business model so all this training and talent doesn’t go to waste.

By the way, I have two daughters and neither is interested in becoming a reporter or writer.  One is going to be the world’s greatest pediatric nurse; the other wants to be a math teacher, which, given my own math dysfunction, is cool and miraculous to me.
First Little Free Library -schoolhouse

Note from Ina: Thank you to the writers who have given of their time and experience to talk with guest blogger Margaret Young. For queries on the Writers on Wednesday series,please contact Margaret at Writers
On Wednesdays [all one word] {insert “at” sign} yahoo and then .com ~ ina at IOB

Monday Coffee: Little, beautiful things

LittleGuyI love chinchillas. They’re so ridiculous – like little rabbits with squirrel tails and elf ears. If one suddenly spread gossamer wings and fluttered away I’d be totally unsurprised.

A couple of days ago,my family was passing a favorite used bookstore after dinner. My spouse stopped and pointed. “We MUST go in there!” The sign in front of the bookstore said, “Chincilla adoption event.” Inside the store a woman was tucking a grey bundle of fur one of a set of carriers on wheels. The lady, a volunteer with the local chincilla rescue, had brought her own in addition to potential adoptees: a black “chin” named Midnight.She settled Midnight into my lap and I stroked her between her ears.She curled herself into a ball in the crook of my arm and settled in.

Cappuccino with latte art on Coffee Right in Brno, Czech RepublicIsn’t it nice  to have a few minutes to sit, maybe sip a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy something beautiful? To that end, a few other little, beautiful things I found this weekend:

  • Some lovely poems and pieces have been left for our Summer Brighter Light challenge. I’m encouraging people both to join us before the challenge closes (July 8th night), but also just to stop by and see some of the lovely things that we’ve received – I feel really fortunate in the people who read here.
  • A friend, Claudsy, is recovering from a bout of pneumonia. While recovering she’s talking about a small collection of poems that she’s putting together as a Kindle Single. I love any author that has the guts to talk about what they’re working on. I have a tendency to hide what I’m doing until I’m sure I’ll finish it – this kind of post is an homage to writerly courage. You go, Claudette.
  • I’m getting our Writers on Wednesdays post for the week ready to go. Joan Hamilton’s “how I got started” is a bit of Amazing. So when you need a little inspiration to get through the mid-week slump, make sure to stop by with your cuppa.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with senryu – the form is similar to haiku but with a theme of human character or foibles rather thannature-themed. The Senryu contest on Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog had 10 amazing results. They’re short – and each is wonderful.
  • Laura Hegfield at Shine the Divine is offering a weekly spiritual practice called I Heart Macro – if you might enjoy photographing the beauty of small things, this may be for you.  Even if you aren’t, the photos people have posted are a chance to be a close observer and take a break from the rush of Monday morning.
  • And lastly, if you haven’t seen today’s “Roswell” Google Doodle, it’s adorable. Even if you don’t (a la Agent Mulder) Believe.

I hope you all have a lovely day, not too “squashed” with things to do (I know, I know, but the picture is so cute!) to stop and enjoy a little beauty.

ChinSquash

Friday Surprise: Summer submissions #2

Ice cream coneAh, the dog days of summer…the perfect time for ice cream, and to sit in the (air conditioned) local library and send out submissions. This batch contains two directed to what I think of as special writers – young people and sonnet writers. So if you know someone who fits either or both bills please pass this list along!

  • Writers Rising Up (protecting the environment and habitat) has a really fun contest coming up: the interactive slithery, slimey, buggy poem!  This one is open to ALL ages, and I suspect that it would be a lot of fun for some of the younger readers here.
  • Missouri Review just sent out a sweet note on Twitter saying that they’re a little light on poetry submissions. I was happy to help them out – are you?
  • There aren’t, in my opinion, nearly enough nature magazines publishing poetry. One of the few poetry mags that is entirely devoted to nature, Avocet, is open for submissions again. The currently deadline is August 31st. Even if you’re not a “nature poet,” this is a great time of year for sun-lovers to write about the beauty of the outdoors.
  • Sprout is one of those lit magazines that a real visual pleasure – they celebrate the positive, the beautiful, the colorful, the meaning in the small things in life. Full disclosure: a number of friends have been published in Sprout, so I’m inclined to like the magazine 🙂 They have two upcoming deadlines for themed issues: “Whimsy” on 7/15 and “Sanctuary” on 8/15.
  • If you’re a sonnet writer or a writer of formal poetry,1) I’m totally impressed and 2) the Helen Schaible International Shakespearean/Petrarchan Sonnet Contest is open and taking entries until Sept. 1st. I should mention that this is one of those rare contests that *does not charge a fee for entrance.* 

Let’s get that work out there ! (I’m exhorting myself, mostly – nothing like a writer community to spur activity!)