How I learned to love August (and you can, too!)

I am not a summer person. My version of the book would start “Now is the summer of our discontent.” I’m sure that there’s some deep seated reason for it…or maybe it’s just that I don’t like being hot all the time.California Desert Landscape 35

And of all the summer months, I used to think of August as the worst. The dregs of summer. The scrapings of the sunshine barrel. The flowers are blown; the grass is wilted; vacation is over but school hasn’t started. Everything is weary and jaded.

Two years ago, I discovered the August Poetry Postcard Fest. And lo! Now August is my favorite, favorite month – not just of summer, but of the year. Postcard AlbumSeriously, I think it edges out December, and that’s going some. It’s the combination of getting personal mail (I mean, it doesn’t get more personal than a poem written by a real person that your eyes see before ANYONE else’s)  and poetry! Amazing, personal, varied, creative poetry.

If you want to join the fun, it’s not too late. You can sign up until this Friday (July 26th), so just click THIS LINK and ask to be added to the mailing list. I guarantee that as a writer (even if you don’t think of yourself as a poet) this will be one of those experiences you’ll never forget.

See you there 🙂 ~ ina


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.


Friday Surprise: How To Be A Young Writer

2013-01-25 00 11 48 (3)

This is my desk. I blame the elves.

This year,  I gave myself a birthday present: the time to read all I want this month. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get mad if the dishes are not “done” every evening or the tax forms languish. Admittedly, it looks like my desk was attacked by demented elves, but I refuse to worry about it until February.

I have read all the poems that have been posted in the Brighter Light contest so far. And then I started thinking about other poems by writers under the age of 20 – young writers. I read through copies of “Stone Soup” and Highlights for Children.” I found more kids’ poetry in collections from the library and our books at home.

What struck me was the originality of these poems. I found myself saying, Wow I would never have thought of that, over and over. Take this poem:


A cheetah has metal girder teeth
it goes hurling down through the jungle
throwing out its fear*

Panthera leo -zoo -yawning-8aNow, I have heard cat’s teeth compared to many things: lions teeth to daggers, tigers’ to sabers, kittens’ teeth to needles. But cheetahs’ teeth and metal building girders! How wonderful to think of that!

Or take this stanza from Sylviya’s poem (she’s the young writer in the Yellow Ninja team) about hair:

Black is shiny like the blouse
my mommy never wears.
Shiny, glossy, smooth
like our kitten’s fur
when I squeeze her
to get some kisses.

I have all the usual associations with black: knights, stallions, nighttime, sadness. Sylvi on the other hand thinks of an unworn blouse – this says so much, so specifically, about how she feels about her mother, and their relationship, and beauty, that feel as if I am standing with her as she sees her mother’s hair.

5984380533_2816ee14a5_bAdult writers spend a lot of time trying to peek around the edges of all the rules we’ve learned and ways we’ve been taught to think. We have heard the overused metaphors, memorized the tens of thousands of rules of plotting, and tried every poetic form…until we have forgotten what the world looks like to us.  Adults envy young writers, I think; we are so used to comparing happiness to a warm puppy that we forget that happiness can also be a new Band-Aid, or a herd of manta rays, or a battered leather jacket with a broken zipper.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that poets shouldn’t read other poets, that essayists should never read novels, or that fiction writers should live in huts in the woods with no windows or visitors. We can learn a lot about how language works, how form works, what structures can work for stories, by reading and experiencing many things. But how do we do this and still keep our fresh perspective – our own voices?

What we can do is…write. A lot.

Ggb in soap bubble 1If you’re a younger writer, writing now means that you’ve started a thread that will connect you to the writer you will be as an adult. For an adult, writing a lot gets the “junk” out of our systems, so we can uncover the pure shimmering connections to our former selves. We can write ourselves into to the world in which it’s fun to pop glass bubbles, where spiders’s legs are as fine as spun glass and tap dance skitter-skatter, where there’s beauty in wearing our helmets and where bicycles have invisible wings, where birdhouses are farms or fairy homes or as safe as warmth, and where dragons love rocks and pebbles make our planet, where we are both ourselves and baby turtles,and where adults and children are connected by words, and birds, and love.**

So, I say, go to it.  Go, you yourself, and write ~ ina

*by Darren Coyles, aged 7, first published in Children as Writers:21st Year 1979, republished in Beauty of the Beast, ed. Jack Prelutsky, Knopf, 1997

**All of these images came from the Brighter Light challenge entries. There are many more than I could list and each one is as wonderful.

A directory of our teams

ChildAdultSunWe’re having a lovely time here with Andrea’s Brighter Light challenge. For those of you on a team or who have been following along, we’ve created a directory of all the teams (I’ve added links that teams have suggested that show something about where they’re from; if you’ve given me a link to your team’s blog, I’ve posted that as well). You can search this directory at any time to remind yourself about who is on a given team and where they hail from.

Oh, and challenge participants: if there’s a link I missed or you’d like to add, just let me know. Also, there’s a copy pinned to the Notice Board so you can remind yourself about any of the teams at any time ~ ina

Brighter Light teams

1. The Seasons
Ina and son Kash
San Francisco Area, California, US

2. Sunshine Elves
Amanda and daughter
Queensland, Australia

3. The Yellow Ninjas
Mariya and daughter Silviya
Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria

4. The Brothers Dragonosaurus
Sharon and her two grandsons (J-JAR 1.5 and J-JAR 3.5)
Alberta, Canada

5. The Awesome Earworms.
Linda H and her daughter
the Rems-Murr-Kreis in Germany

6. The Erie Dearies
Marie Elena and her granddaughter Sophie
Lake Erie area, Toledo, OH

7. Icicles
Guðríður and her son Þorlákur
From Akureyri in northern Iceland

8. The Sparkly Snowflakes
Pearl and her grand girls (!) Halle Lynn and Rori Cate
Lido Beach, New York and Newton, Massachusetts, US

9. The Chain Letters
JLynn, her son and many other helper-elves!
Chain O’Lakes area, Illinois, US

10. Alabama Tarheels
Nancy and Alyssea
Hickory, North Carolina and Florence, Alabama; USA

11. The Vikings
Søs and Ingrid
From Denmark

12. Pragon
Claudette and Sidse
Northern Rocky Mountains, US and Sejer Island, Denmark

13. The Northstar Wolves
Michele and her daughters Mikayla and Samantha
Minnesota, US

14. Queen Flower and the Princesses Sugar
Jacqueline and her two daughters
Phoenix, Arizona, USA

15. The Poetry Writers

Barbara and her student Raybert

Stamford, CT, US

Beautiful Stamford (Google Image Search)

Parent and child of elephas namadicus

A little Friday surprise: Talk to me

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Confidences

Last month  I was looking for a particular ee cummings poem. And in the middle of the search, I ran across an archive of cummings reading his own work. Like this: love is thicker than forget. Since then, I’ve searched all over for poets reading their own works. I particularly love Fishouse Poems, which archives recordings of emerging poets. There’s an amazing poem by Amaud Johnson which you have to hear. Turns out there are archives all over the net of people reading amazing works. Of their own. Wow.

A poet we’ve interviewed on this very blog, Jay Sizemore, has posted some recordings of his poems on youtube. It’s an amazing experience listening to them – it’s not that the poems are better spoken, but different. I get different things out of using my ears than my eyes. I think we all do. I want to do a search sometime soon for youtube videos of people signing poems in ASL (which I don’t know much of, but a tiny bit) – I think I will learn a lot.

Charles Dickens, public reading, 1867It is good to read one’s draft poems aloud. It’s like getting several months away from them, it’s that fresh. All the slightly wrong notes are obvious; all the truly “on” moments stand out in great beauty.

If you find that you like reading your poems, there are not only open mics where you can speak your word in public but there are journals that will publish your works…in audio. These venues range from the multicultural spoken word standard, Visions With Voices, to the multi-media-friendly new magazines like shuf that include audio works. I’m thinking sometime that IOBs might want to try publishing audio works too.

So my thought for Friday? Let’s talk. 

Don’t forget: Sign up for the Brighter Light poeming challenge!

Cibiel courtHello, Dear Readers,

Andrea has created a wonderful challenge for us in the new year – find your favorite kid and sign up through the blog post at this link for our Brighter Light poeming month. A great chance to get a young person involved with writing, creative expression and poetry and to develop your relationship in a new way.
Johann Georg Trautmann (attr) Alte Frau mit Knaben bei Kerzenlicht
We hope you’ll join us for a wonderful month of creating poems and community and adding light to the winter days ~ ina

Wednesday thought: veils, tattoos, and anvils

In wandering through Duotrope for new venues to send poems, I’ve noticed a number of “serious” journals that will not read or publish “erotic poetry.” Sometimes, it sounds like the sort of aversion that might lead someone to say it with anvils: Just. Don’t. Do. It

But then, I ran across this amazing poem by Richard Fenwick, which originally appeared in the Linden Avenue Lit. Journal. Now, if this isn’t erotic I don’t know what it is: the whole way of hinting at skin, and undressing, while simultaneously denying that undressing (and even skin) is going to be part of the long term picture – I mean isn’t that push-and-pull, that as-of-yet-unfulfilled possibility of fulfillment, the definition of “erotic?”

So now I’m wondering if they mean something else by erotic – Brooklyn Museum - Wallpaper Sample Book 1 - William Morris and Company - page110maybe “explicit?” Or “involving too many semi-medical or gutter-worthy terms for human body parts?” Are  they thinking specifically of the genre of fiction called “erotica”?

I think (for what it’s worth) that if that’s what they’re worried about they should say so, because some of the most beautiful poems in the world are the most deeply erotic. A few examples of my favorites? I’m so glad you asked:

As far as me, on the rare occasions in which I touch on “erotic” themes, they’re usually something like Richard’s (though not even close to the quality in terms of sheer amazing language use) – things hinted at, much left concealed. So tell me: What poems do you find erotic? When you write about love, how do you do it without “expliciticity” or vulgarity? If you’ve never written an erotic poem, give it a thought – how would you approach it? Would you sidle up to the topic? would you hint? Would you be bold?

Friday Surprise

Hana just told me – Andrea – on FB that she entered the Midnight Oil poetry contest and that’s just great.
Some time ago, back in October, Amy who holds the contest, wrote to me because only so few poets had sent poems to her for her contest – only I didn’t have any poems that Amy hadn’t seen so I couldn’t submit any.
Instead I paid for some possible entries so I could offer free entries to poets who sent poems to our blog including one very special poet who once wrote an incredible poem on Poetic Asides.
And the poets sent their poems to Amy, she extended her deadline, she got some more poems and Amy was happy.
That was when I realized that I had two poems written here in November that Amy hadn’t seen.
I submitted them yesterday.
So here we go!

Connections: We want to publicize your triumphs!

Andrea and I want to hear about your latest creative kudos, and we’ve got a place for you to tell us and the rest of the inourbooks community about them! Our Notice Board is a place for you to post links to newly published material, your new blog or website, new reviews of your latest book or gallery showing – you name it, we want to hear about it!

All you need to do is click the “In Our Notice Board” link in the black band under the F.A. Cup Trophylighthouse to be transported to the notice board. Simply register to share your joys and triumphs with us all!

In addition, our notice board has threads devoted to various web-based creative activities (currently, there’s a thread on NOVPad in case you’re frustrated with trying to post on Poetic Asides) and calls for submissions (if you’re running a contest, reach some terrific artists through our board), so make sure to stop by and check them out 🙂

Looking forward to many exciting future conversations!


Friday surprise: Advice From a Good Midwestern Girl

If you take a gander at the picture of me on the “About Us” page, the first thing that does not come to mind is “Ah, a Good Midwestern Girl.” If you know me personally, the idea of me as a GMG probably makes you giggle uncontrollably. But  I am, at heart, a nice Nebraskan woman.   I cannot pass up a really good steak. My spell check is configured to automatically replace “towards” with “toward,” because I’ve given up on the idea that I’m ever going to type “toward” of my own volition. And I always make my own Thanksgiving stuffing – from scratch, thank you.

Which is why I was stunned by what I read in this interesting and in-depth article about what editors of lit magazines want (on The Review Review).

Lynne Barrett’s article is full of good advice for people hoping to find recognition and publication in literary journals.  She mentions practical stuff like keeping good records of where you’ve sent work out and making sure you indicate when submissions are simultaneous. But most of this (rather substantial) article’s advice amounted to this:


That’s it: be polite. It’s really sad that grown up artists – writers, painters, actors – have to be told to use the same rules that govern polite society when they approach someone about displaying/publishing/supporting their work.

The Reception

Being polite is in the interest of both the artist and the purveyor of artistic work.  In the same way that it’s not just nice but practical to give your mechanic a  plate of homemade cookies for New Years, it’s not just rude but stupid to send a nasty-gram to an editor who rejects a favorite story. That same editor might have loved your second-favorite story, but not if you’ve gone off the rails at her once. And an editor who will identify you to other editors as One Big Headache will not help you create a professional reputation.

 Let’s look at a less obvious example. Most editors have a clear and transparent submission policy; the results of that policy are usually apparent in the publication itself. So it’s easy to find out if the journal in question does not publish genre fiction, or is primarily interested in travel writing, or only publishes poetry in the style of Mary Oliver. If you send in a submission, without checking the publication’s style or requirements, you are essentially indicating that what the editor/manager/publisher of the magazine wants is not important to you. Is that really the message that’s going to get your work accepted?

An analogy: I had an attractive friend who tried on-line dating. In her profile, she stated explicitly that she would not date men who didn’t share the basic tenets of her faith. She wasn’t looking for a high income level, movie star looks, anything like that. Just a decent person around her age who shared some of her basic life views. The number of dates she went on where the person eventually mentioned that they totally disagreed with her faith was astounding – we stopped counting. And what was worse: most of the people told her they’d looked at her picture and contacted her because she was “cute” ; they told her that they didn’t care what she’d written.

Good Manners

That’s not very polite, is it? And it’s equally impolite to send an editor whatever we feel like without stopping to find out if it’s something they’d spend their time reading. If we expect respectful treatment for our work, we need to treat those who might support it respectfully as well. I’m saddened by how often  fellow artists haven’t looked at the art work carried by a gallery they’d like to show their work in or haven’t read a sample issue of the publicatin in which they hope their work will appear.

This may seem unfair; after all, buying sample magazines is expensive and tickets to indie film festivals add up. But there are work-arounds. Many publications provide PDFs of  previously published stories; lots of indie film festivals archive of clips of prior years’ winners online. More importantly, not being polite also costs you: time unpublished, time dealing with boomeranging artworks that could be used as creative time,  time, energy and money for resubmissions.

Almost all Barrett’s advice  – from how to respond to an acceptance letter to what to do about simultaneous submissions – comes down to being a courteous person. Don’t do to an editor/gallery manager /producer-director what you wouldn’t want someone to do to you. It’s really that simple.