Of mice and men and trying again

Gheyn-muisjeWhen we last left our heroine, it was mid-March and she was going to try to post once a week going forward. But, as Robert Burns said, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley…,” and my plans went pretty agley for a few months.

However, I’m willing to try again. I think it will take a bit to get back to once-a-week, as I’m under deadline for a couple of writing projects (including a rewrite of a paper on animals and uplift…which is fun, but totally off-topic for this blog), but I will promise to be here more regularly, as lots of exciting things are coming up.

Speaking of which, the one thing I want to do in this post is encourage poets, especially people who haven’t tried this before, to join the August Poetry Postcard Festival this year. As long-time readers know, this event has made August my fave month. It’s a truly freeing experience as a writer, and as a human being – well, I love getting mail (who doesn’t?) and getting see the work of some truly phenomenal poets. If you’d like to know more about the experience:

  • Here’s where you sign up
  • Here’s a blog post ruminating on last year’s fest
  • You can find one of Paul Nelson’s lovely mini-essays on the effect of writing poetry this way – freely, spontaneously, and with the internal editor set to “off” – here
  • And a guest blog post by Paul on postcard poems, the origin of this event, and why it matters

Wood Mouse
I’m really looking forward to this year’s fest. I hope you’ll join the community, too –

Ina

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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!)

New contest deadline

Pouring cream into drip coffee

Sometimes, you just need a little something extra…

In this case, I realized that I’d put our Summer Poem/Flash Fiction Contest deadline right when a lot of people in the U.S. are traveling, so I figured, why not give people some extra time? We’re looking for poems or flash fiction (let’s call it <300 words, microfiction sized) on your very own summer day, whatever that might be. You can post them in the comments here, or on your blog and leave a link here, or through our Contact Us form here, by (the extended deadline) the end of the day on Monday, July 8th. Feel free to comment on other works too – we’ve got some terrific poems from writers younger and older coming in already (and do they deserve kudos for getting their work out there!). I’ll be choosing three works to highlight, along with an author feature or interview for each!

Looking forward to sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading all the lovely writing

~ Ina

Friday surprise: Brighter Light and Summer Prompt

As many of our readers know, in the winter Andrea blogged a month-long poetry challenge for adult-and-kid teams called Brighter Light. Now, with the advent of the light we were longing for in the depths of winter, I thought we ought to have a follow up.

BrighterLightBadge2First: for our original challenge participants. Thank you so much to all the participants in the challenge.We still don’t have the “results” of the challenge judging, since for both health and technical reasons Andrea has had almost no internet access for months, but the TRUE results are an amazing collection of collaborative poems. I was just reading through the poems on the Notice Board and am so amazed by the breadth of approaches to the prompt and the quality of the poems. It’s a real privilege to know so many amazing writers (big and small!). In honor of your participation, I have posted, in the side bar, a code that you can put into your own blog or website which will display the Brighter Light Poet badge for this year! If you can’t use that code directly, you can also just copy at paste a copy of the badge to the left (it’s slightly lower quality but it’ll work fine). In addition, I’m asking that all challenge participants contact me with an address to which I can send Brighter Light stickers for the “kid” participants in the challenge. You can reach me through the “Contact Us” page on this blog. I really want to make sure that kids get a chance to show their pride in having a great thing (and in the cases of the really little ones, to have stickers to play with :-0 )

Maurice Prendergast - Revere Beach No. 2 - Google Art Project

Maurice Prendergast – Revere Beach No. 2 [PD-US]

Second: for all our writer friends, one last prompt! I thought we’d close out the challenge with one final prompt. I love this Prendergast painting (to the right)  because it shows so many people enjoying a summer day in so many different ways. Summer is experienced by each of us in different ways ~ by the difference in color and light, or scents, or heat, or location.

The prompt: Your summer day is like no one else’s; what is your summer day (or night)?

 Please post your poem or flash fiction response in the comments below, on your own blog or website, or (if you, like me, don’t post pieces publicly because that excludes later publication elsewhere) through our Contact Us form before July 4th (11:59 p.m. July 3rd U.S. Pacific Time). I’d especially appreciate young writers joining in. I’ll have a special badge available for all participants AND I’ll be picking 3 authors for a mini-interview and/or highlight on InOurBooks.com.

Thank you again to all the prior participants, and I look forward to reading all the Brighter Light Summer entries!

Longer days, brighter lights

La Rebeyrolle, (Creuse, Fr), sur le chemin de St.jacquesAbout six months ago, visitors to (and bloggers on) this blog were writing away at the Brighter Light poetry challenge designed and provided by my co-blogger, Andrea. It was a lot of fun, and I met some of the most amazing poets, adult and not-yet-adult, and read some incredible, creative, interesting work.

The challenge has been on my mind because of something my spouse pointed out to me recently.

My son, K.,  (and I) dropped out of the Brighter Light contest early on. He was going through some Stuff at school and didn’t have energy to think about words. But then, about a month ago,  I was putting away dishes and realized I was hearing his little voice from the livingroom. I came out of the kitchen, and there he was, reading a short poem by Michael Dickman to himself, out of a New Yorker that my husband had left on the table. It was kind of…eerie.

The light over the lighthouse (5001033535)When K. was done, he read it aloud again, asked me about some of the phrases, and then went into a rather thoughtful silence. 

Apparently, this was the start of something.Each day, K’s taken a little time to read poems out loud to me (or my spouse) or (mostly) to himself. The floor is littered with random books of poetry, opened and upside down. He’ll recite some Jack Prelutsky or Spike Milligan (he’s memorized one about a baboon that sends him into fits of giggles). He’s grabbed me a couple of times and asked me to type “a poem I’m about to make up,” and the poems are (trying to put on my objective, non-mom, hat) interesting. This is a part of a recent one:

your colors melt and mix
until they make one red stripe
across the long screen

I didn’t have a theory about why this was happening until my husband looked up from his computer and said, appropos of nothing, that it usually takes K. about six months to really process anything he’s been thinking about (which drives his teachers absolutely bats). And then he asked me what K and I had been doing about six months ago.

Ah ha.

Maybe the challenge did illuminate the world of words for K.  I realized I got a lot out of the challenge too, as I get a lot out of all of the challenges I read and/or enter. I get to ingest a lot of amazing poetry. I see new ways of looking at a single picture. I am reminded that I like a much wider variety of poetry than I usually read. In Andrea’s challenge, I got a very visceral reminder of why artistic coaches tell you to “reach for your inner child:” there wasn’t a young person involved who didn’t bring his or her own light to the writing.

Gdansk-RobertStadlerSo, friendly readers, now I’m curious: what do you get out of challenges and contests that go beyond the obvious? If you and a young person in your life participated in the Brighter Light challenge, what came out of it for your young person ? if you are a young person who was involved in the challenge, what did you find out about yourself, about the adults in your life, about writing, and poetry, and life?

Monday coffee: Writing “happy”

Mahlzeit für einen Binturong

By 4028mdk09 CC-BY-SA-3.0

This silly looking beast is a Southeast Asian Bear-Cat. Otherwise known as a binturong.

Binturongs are distant relatives of civets. They walk low to the ground, have prehensile tails and are the size of a very large dog. They waddle like raccoons, except when they leap straight up in the air (all four paws off the ground) to jump on ducks. No, not kidding. I had the pleasure of meeting one at the San Diego Zoo – he was one of their “Animal Ambassadors.” He did, as binturongs are reputed to do, smell exactly like Fritos.

20130311-150354.jpgI often hope that Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) got to meet a binturong. With their funny tufty ears, their habit of hanging upside down from tree branches to sleep, and their spray of whiskers, they are as close to a Dr. Seuss animal come to life as anything on Earth.

Our friend, Linda, is having a terrific contest in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The contest ends on the 16th of March. If you haven’t joined in yet, please do – even if you’re not “a real poet.” Dr. Seuss is for everyone.

I haven’t, myself, written a poem for the contest yet. My six year old has, but I haven’t been able to. Why? Partly because I’ve been overworked, but mostly because I’ve been a bit blue – a delayed effect of a lot of kind of yucky stuff from the past couple of months finally sitting down on my head.

Young pet bear cat in Taman Negara Malaysia

By Bart Van den Bosch CC-BY-SA-2.5

Until today, I have been waiting to “feel happier” before trying to write my Seussian poem. Which is why I ended up looking up pictures of binturongs. And it was when I found this little guy that I realized that…as a writer, you can’t always wait to be happy before you write. Because sometimes it’s the act of writing, the being at one with your creative nature, that is happiness. I’m happy when I’m writing – even when I’m grumpy about what I’m writing or even just bored. So instead of waiting to write until I am happy, or trying to jolly myself into happiness, I’m going to write myself happy. In fact, I’m going to do it now. This post is just by way of thank you to Linda H., and all the other writers I know (at PA friends, and HMPDYWT, and Posted Asides), for reminding me, however indirectly, that to be happy, writers…we write.