Haiku Friday: Truth

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. I love haiku!  They are so pithy.  Only seventeen syllables, arranged in three lines – five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.  Many of my haiku are good. Some of them are great. A few of them are flat out awful. It doesn’t matter. Because I create something new every day, I can say, with perfect truth, “Today I am an artist.”

Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it. 

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the Comments that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “Haiku for the Seasons 2005”, or “Haiku for the Seasons 2006.”

Today’s topic is  “TRUTH.”  Here is my haiku:

there is a border
voices from the other side
telling all the truth

Technorati Tags: haiku, pithy, writing, syllables, truth

Writing Tip: Always Think About Your Reader

You might think you already have the answer to the question “How do you WOW your readers?” You will wow them by your scintillating ideas and stylish writing, right?

Not entirely.  Your ideas and style are about you.  If you want to wow your readers, your writing must be about them.

Honing your writing skills is important, but your writing isn’t really about you. It’s not even about those great ideas you want to share.  It’s about them – your readers, that hopefully huge group of anonymous people, total strangers, who you want to share those ideas with.

Now, the most practical reason that may occur to you for knowing who your readers are is that this will give you some clues as to where they are.  You want to know where they are, so you can send your book to websites, stores, magazines, etc., where these people hang out.  You need to know how to get in touch with them.

But there are less obvious reasons why it’s important to truly understand your readers.

This may seem really basic, but I am always amazed at how many writers forget about the reader, and only write “for themselves.”  “I write for myself,” they state, as if they are proud of it, as if this means they are a “real” writer, in touch with their muse.

If you are only writing for yourself, you are journaling. Journaling is a wonderful tool of self-discovery and healing, but it means you are writing for you. It’s a rare journal that will be of interest to others.

But books, articles, blog posts and the like are communication vehicles. All effective communication is two-way. The written word is no exception.  You have to know what is important to your reader. Otherwise, he or she will not read your writing. People have a choice to read your book, or not to read it.  It’s as simple as that.

How you present your ideas must be done in a way that your readers will understand or be entertained by.  Yes, I am talking about slanting your writing.

Some people think that “slanting” your writing to what your reader cares about is selling out, betraying “the muse”, pandering, or manipulation.   No!  Slanting your writing so that your reader can “get” you is simply good communication. It shows respect for your reader. You are paying attention to who they are, and what they care about.  Aren’t you more likely to listen when people pay attention to your interests, and offer you respect by talking in terms you understand?  Of course you are.  It’s the same with writing.

Tailoring your writing to your reader’s “care abouts” will allow you to elicit emotional responses from them. You want bells to go off in their heads, or for them to snap their fingers with delight, or be dazzled by the brilliant light you have poured over them.  Emotional responses lead to action or change.  And that’s ultimately what you’re trying to get from your reader – you want them to do something, or learn something.

Otherwise, why are you writing?

I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?  If so, leave a comment here.  You might win something!  At the end of each month  I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “How to WOW Your Readers” or “You Can Be An Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer.”

Technorati Tags: writing tip, reader, journaling, communication vehicle, slanting, reader interests, tailoring

Compost: My Muse, Laura

Writers often talk about their Muse. These creatures are always not well defined. Are they real people, or spiritual guides? Maybe they are both.  I wrote a whole book about my Muse, whose name is Laura.  Here is an excerpt from that book, which describes what it feels like to write sometimes.  Even with a Muse’s assistance.
 
“Laura is coming. The pressure is rising; you can feel her dark and minky presence. Ah, feel her fingers clutch your shoulders. They are hard and curved, like the talons of a strong black bird.

She squeezes, compresses, releases, compresses. Now her hands are moving, they grab and tear at your flesh as they pull you to her lap. You sit on her lap as she squats low to the ground.

You squat together and grunt together. You are birthing together, another child, another story for Laura’s hungry mouth. The story presses hard upon your bowels. Drops of blood fall on your feet, yours and Laura’s. You are opening together, you are splitting in halves; soon there will be four of you, then eight, sixteen.

Laura drops beneath you and lays flat on the dusty earth. You spread your legs over her and give bloody birth to strange reptilian creatures who drop like candies off an assembly line into her waiting mouth.

“Aah,” sighs Laura as she chews and sucks their birdy bones clean.”
 
 (©2000, Eating Mythos Soup: poemstories for Laura.)

Technorati Tags: muse, guide, spiritual guide, real person, Laura, writing, poemstories, Eating Mythos Soup

Haiku Friday: Wrinkles

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. I love haiku!  They are so pithy.  Only seventeen syllables, arranged in three lines – five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.  Many of my haiku are good. Some of them are great. A few of them are flat out awful. It doesn’t matter. Because I create something new every day, I can say, with perfect truth, “Today I am an artist.”  

Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.  

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “Haiku for the Seasons 2005”, or “Haiku for the Seasons 2006.”

Today’s topic is  “WRINKLES.”  Here is my haiku:

under the wrinkles
truth unsaid folded away
saved in lavender

 

Technorati Tags: haiku, pithy, writing, syllables, wrinkles, lavender

Sharing History: Red Scare

Starting in the latter thirties and reaching a peak in the fifties, the American political landscape was dominated by the fear of communism. This fear was increased after 1945 by the specter of atomic warfare. The House Committee on Un-American Activities was formed. Senator Joseph McCarthy lent his name to the wave of anti-communist hysteria which swept over the country. People lost their jobs and some had their lives ruined by being accused of communist sympathies. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of being communist spies, lost their lives. Names such as Alger Hiss and Richard Nixon rose to prominence. The fear of communism and war was real, and affected people’s daily lives. “Rose”, a student in one of my classes, remembered the first house she and her husband bought in 1951. One of the first things they did was build a bomb shelter in their back yard. She stocked it with canned goods, bottled water, powdered milk, sugar, and bullets for the gun her husband bought her, in case the communists started World War III.

Do you have a story of how you, or a member of your family, was affected or influenced by the Red Scare of the 1950s?  Were you, or your father/mother/grandfather/grandmother afraid of communism? What did they think it would do to America? Were they a supporter of McCarthy? Did they watch the Army-McCarthy hearings on TV? Did you or they know anyone who was blacklisted?  Was any of your family a communist?  

If you’d care to share this story, please leave a comment here.  At the end of each month I gather up the Sharing History comments and pick one at random in a drawing. I send the winner of the drawing my e-book:  Making History Workbook: Economics and Politics 1930-1989.

Technorati Tags: thirties, fifties, American, communism, atomic warfare, fear, writing, story

Compost: Speaking as a Ghost

Authors find the literary device of the ghost rather handy. Think about the ghosts you’ve met in literature, such as the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Their role is often to speak a truth that has been previously disregarded. Ghosts don’t mess around; they go right to the heart of the matter, cutting through all the bullshit evasions, rationalizations, and lies that the characters tell themselves in order to avoid what scares them.

This is the role of the ghostwriter too. When I listen to non-writers tell me their stories and ideas, I ask questions designed to winkle out what’s really going on inside their heads and hearts. So many people want to water down what really happened or what they really thought and felt. They want to hedge, belittle, or downright refute their own selves, especially when they know these thoughts and feelings will be written down. Writing makes them real, and so much harder to ignore. Writers already know this. But non-writers, who are the people who hire ghostwriters to help them tell their stories, have to be guided through this process.

Although ghosts stand outside of time and space, they paradoxically claim their space inside your head and they don’t waste your time with anything but the unvarnished truth.

 

Technorati Tags: writing, ghost, ghostwriting, literary device, truth

Haiku Friday: Busy

 It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. I love haiku! They are so pithy. Only seventeen syllables, arranged in three lines – five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Many of my haiku are good. Some of them are great. A few of them are flat out awful. It doesn’t matter. Because I create something new every day, I can say, with perfect truth, “Today I am an artist.”

Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “Haiku for the Seasons 2005”, or “Haiku for the Seasons 2006.”

Today’s topic is“BUSY.”  Here is my haiku:

to-dos bounce and push
a crowd of frantic children
choose me first! they screech

 

Technorati Tags: haiku, poetry, writing, pithy, syllables, contest

Writing Tip: Read it Out Loud

Here’s a writing tip that has worked for me:

Try reading your work out loud.  Having an actual listener is even better, but if this is not practical, pretend you are the listener as well as the reader.  Why is this beneficial? 

First, reading aloud allows you to claim your voice as yours.  Not only your words, but your voice.  Second, and somewhat paradoxically, it allows you to let your voice go free.  Those words no longer belong to you – you have let them go out in the world, to whoever is listening, to do their own work.  You no longer need be attached to them, they no longer have to weigh you down. And third, the practical reason for reading your work aloud is that you will find the mistakes that your eyes miss when you read to yourself. You wrote this stuff and you know what it’s supposed to say, so that’s what you read. But when you get your mouth involved, your eyes sharpen.  I don’t know why this happens, but it’s true.

Words are meant to be heard. That is their original, ancient function.  Give them back their roots.

I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?  If so, leave a comment here.  You might win something!  At the end of each month  I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “How to WOW Your Readers” or “You Can Be An Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer.”

Technorati Tags: read out loud, reading, your words, your voice, listen

Compost: Experiences in Writing Your Life Story

Are you thinking of writing your life story? (I hope so!)  Want to know what it’s like to do so?  Here’s an e-interview with Linda Wisniewski, author of her memoir Off Kilter, available from http://www.pearlsong.com/offkilter.htm or http://www.amazon.com/Off-Kilter-Journey-Scoliosis-Heritage/dp/1597190128/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240179743&sr=8-1

Q: While writing your life story, were you surprised by some of the things you remembered?  Did the process of writing help you recall events from your past?

A: When I wrote about the first time I stayed in a hospital, I suddenly remembered the name of the little girl in the next bed. I hadn’t seen or thought of her in 49 years! The process of recalling details and writing them down brings up more details from that part of the brain where they are imprinted during especially difficult times. Of course, some of the details I remember are different from what others recall. Some relatives remembered a different model car, or different people being absent or present on a particular day, etc. A memoir is just the author’s personal story, not a history book.

Q:  What historical event or trend do you remember best? How did you participate in or contribute to that event or trend?  How did it affect your life?

A: I would have to say the women’s rights movement of the 1970s. It changed my life. I was in an unhappy marriage, just like my mom, and for the first time I saw possibilities other than being the submissive, traditional female. My eagerness to be ‘liberated’ was a challenge for my mom, who sadly never believed in herself enough to follow her dreams.

Q:  If you could talk directly to your great-great-granddaughter/son (you might be doing so right now!), what would tell her/him about the lessons you learned during your life?  What do you want him/her to know about the times you lived through?  Do you think she/he will read your book?

A: So far, not even grandchildren (LOL) but I hope someday they’ll read my book, and that it will be helpful to them. The most important thing I’d want them to learn is to not be afraid to tell your story, to find your voice, to stand up for yourself. This has been a challenge for women, historically, but boys, too, need to believe in themselves.

Second, I’d want them to know they don’t have to suffer. Girls in my time and place were taught to put up with all kinds of abuse for the sake of family harmony. It doesn’t work; dreams die, spirits wither, and even the abuser is not happy.

Q:  How is your book organized? Chronologically? Or focused around a particular event, or a particular relationship? Or focused on specific life lessons? How did you decide on the organization or structure of your book?

A: Off Kilter is roughly chronological, beginning with my early childhood, and ending in the present. While I was gathering my essays for the book, I found they centered on three themes: my scoliosis, my relationship with my mother, and my Polish Catholic heritage. I chose to link them together, and write additional material, using scoliosis (spinal curvature) as a metaphor for my life: uncomfortable, even painful, and in need of frequent adjustment.

Q:  As you wrote your book, did you discover a “theme” that recurred throughout your life? If so, was this a surprise to you?

A: As I said above, the theme became clear after I’d written quite a few essays that became chapters. One thing that helped was using different color markers to highlight topics: pink for sections about scoliosis, blue for work about suffering, yellow for my mother etc. This helped me see which subjects I was writing about the most. And no, it wasn’t a surprise. I’d already had lots of therapy! (LOL)

Q: Was writing the book fun, or a chore?  Which aspect of writing the book (organization & structure, actual writing, editing, designing, etc.) was the most fun, and which the most challenging?

A: Truly fun! The actual writing was half done before I realized I had the makings of a book. The more painful stories made me cry, but by the time I’d revised and crafted them, the pain was gone. And the funny parts made me smile.

Lucky for me, my publisher did all the editing and design work. I love that she curved my name and the book title on each facing page in the shape of my scoliosis.

Q: What were your family members’ reactions to your book?

A: Very few – maybe two or three – were upset that I wrote about the effects of verbal and emotional abuse on my sister, my mother and me. They knew it happened, but they didn’t like reading about it. I hope someday they’ll read again the chapters about using what I was given to create a balanced, fulfilling life.

Q:  How did you handle embarrassing or difficult periods in your life, about you or others? Did you skim over them?  Boldly examine them?  Ignore them totally?  Why did you handle them this way?

A: Most of the periods I write about are far enough in the past that I’m no longer embarrassed or hurt by the memories. I hope I’ve ‘boldly examined them.’ The whole point of my book is that the only person we can change is the one in the mirror. Once we realize that, the real work begins, and the reward is a rich, authentic life.

Q:  Why would readers want to read your book?  How will your life experiences add value to their lives?

A: Many readers have told me Off Kilter inspired them to examine their own lives and to get their own personal stories down on paper, and that makes me very happy.

One reviewer called me ‘an ordinary woman,’ and at first, I was taken aback, but now I’m happy he saw the value in reading about how I came to terms with the good and bad in my life, and decided what to keep and what to leave behind. If an ordinary woman like me can do it, so can anyone.

Q:  If you were to write this book again, would you do anything differently?  If so, what?

A: I don’t think much about changing the past, and that includes writing Off Kilter. It was the right time, the right form – a collection of essays – and the right publisher. Now it’s not even ‘mine’ anymore;’ it’s out in the world for whatever good people derive from it, and I hope that’s considerable.

Technorati Tags: writing, history, life story, experiences, recall events, memory, details, organized

Haiku Friday: Dance

For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. I love haiku! They are so pithy. Only seventeen syllables, arranged in three lines – five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Haiku often have nature themes, but I don’t limit myself to that. I write them in the mornings, while drinking coffee in my kitchen nook. Sometimes I look out the windows and see trees and crows and clouds. Some days I look at my kitchen and see last night’s dirty dishes piled in the sink. Sometimes these things color my haiku, and sometimes they have nothing to do with them at all. Many of my haiku are good. Some of them are great. A few of them are flat out awful. It doesn’t matter. Because I create something new every day, I can say, with perfect truth, “Today I am an artist.”

Every Friday I’ll share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happened to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are:   1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

At the end of each month I gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing. I send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “Haiku for the Seasons 2005”, or “Haiku for the Seasons 2006.”

Today’s topic is “DANCE.” Here is my haiku:

you have done it now
wild giggles pop out your mouth
do a table dance

Technorati Tags: haiku, pithy, writing, syllables, nature