Poetry Play

“Poetry is the music of the soul.”    
Voltaire

April showers bring May flowers, surely something joyous and uplifting to celebrate. The month of April also offers another delight: National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world. Coast to coast, millions of poetry lovers: students, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, bloggers, writers, aspiring authors, and poets take part in events aimed at marking the importance of poetry in American culture and our everyday lives. What a gift!

Now that Spring really seems to have arrived, why not make a joyful noise to welcome it and read poetry? I’m happy to say that every month is poetry month for my fabulous Poetry Appreciation Group, which is meeting today in our local library under the wing of Montclair’s wonderful Write Group. Still, it seems fitting that April, the birth month of William Wordsworth, Maya Angelou, George Herbert, Walter de la Mare, and William Shakespeare, among others, is given extra special attention.

Inspired by successful celebrations of February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month, the Academy of American Poets founded National Poetry Month in April of 1996 with several goals in mind:

To highlight the legacy and achievements of American poets;

To encourage the reading of poems as a cherished art form;

To help teachers bring poetry into their classrooms; and

To encourage support for poets and poetry publication.

You can help celebrate National Poetry Month by writing your own poetry, reading a poem each day, purchasing  a book of poetry at your favorite indie bookstore, attending a poetry reading at a café or library, reading a poem of your own at an open mic event, or signing up for a poetry class or workshop. For more on the Academy of American Poets and National Poetry Month, visit: poets.org. And write on!

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Show Up!

Wow, what a story! Monday, the day of the Boston Marathon, offered up some of the worst weather conditions ever: Pouring rain. Freezing air. High winds. Yet despite all this, Desiree Linden became the first American woman in 33 years to win. But here’s the real story behind the story, the kicker. She almost didn’t run. She almost quit!

A news headline tells the tale: “Runner Tells Herself ‘Just Show Up For One more Mile’ – And Wins The Boston Marathon.”

The 34-year-old runner is a two-time Olympian. She finished second at the Boston Marathon in 2011. But her barrier-breaking victory almost didn’t happen. Faced with the cold rain and wind, Linden said she wasn’t feeling well and thought about bailing out of the race. But she didn’t quit. She kept going – and won.*

Inspiring words from this champion peak performer to speed us on our own path:

“It was such a miserable day, and when things go awry, they can kind of ding you up for a while and also take time out of your career,” she says. “I’m on the back half of my career, so I have to be super careful at this point. And early on, I was freezing and my muscles were tight, and I was like ‘This isn’t – this is not my day.’ So I did kind of toy around with the idea of stepping off.”

“It’s the moment you dream of during the tough days when you don’t wanna go out and run, when you’re a little kid and you’re getting into the sport, and you turn [on] the TV, and you see the Boston Marathon. You dream about breaking that tape. It was the culmination of years of hard work, and years of dreaming, and years of never giving up.”

[I was saying:]”I don’t know if I’m going to even get to start this race, like this is not going well. It should be going better.” And then, there was a lot of days where you’d had that glimmer of hope, and you go, “No, this is exactly on pace. This is the perfect – it’s going to plan absolutely 100 percent.” And I decided to stop thinking about each day so much, and just keep showing up. Like, whatever the day gave me, just show up. That’s kind of how I attacked the race, too. Once I got over the fact that I wasn’t going to drop out, it was like, “Just show up for one more mile. Show up for one more minute.” And that was kind of my mantra throughout this entire build and through the entire race day on Monday.”

“Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.”

“My advice: keep showing up.”

Write on!  * This inspiring story comes to us via Dr. Rob Gilbert’s super mom, Corinne Ellis Gilbert, who alerted him to it and Rob’s fabulous Success Hotline (973.743.4690)!

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Contest Update

Do you have a manuscript on hand that you polished until it sparkles? One you’d love to get in front of editors and publishers? Then you might want to fine-tune and submit it to the Writer’s Digest 87th Annual Writing Competition, one of the longest running competitions around. So sharpen your pencils and fire up the computer,  the early deadline is: May 4th.

Close to 500 people will be recognized and one Grand Prize Winner will receive:

$5,000 in cash
An interview with the author in Writer’s Digest
One on one attention from four editors or agents
A paid trip to the upcoming Writer’s Digest Conference
A one year subscription to Writer’s Digest Tutorials

The First place winner in each category will receive $1,000 in cash
The Second place winner in each category will receive $500 cash
The Third place winner in each category will receive $250 in cash
The Fourth place winner in each category will receive $100 in cash

The Grand Prize winning piece and the 1st place winning piece in
each category will be published in the 87th Annual Writer’s Digest
Annual Writing Competition Collection. All other top winners will have
their names listed in Writer’s Digest, on WritersDigest.com and in the
87th Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition Collection.

Categories:

Mainstream/Literary Short Story

Inspirational Writing (Spiritual/Religious)
Memoirs/Personal Essay
Magazine Feature Article
Genre Short Story (Mystery, Romance, etc.)
Rhyming Poetry
Non-rhyming Poetry

Scriptwriting (TV/film)

Children’s/YA submissions are also welcome.

For contest requirements visit: http://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions. Write on!

 

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Refreshing Rain

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing.
Wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating.
There is no such thing as bad weather,
Only different kinds of good weather.
John Ruskin

“Rain, rain, go away/ Come again another day.” Like a kid who wants to play outside, it’s easy to feel low when it’s pouring outside as it is doing right now just beyond my window. Being a Pisces, however, which is a water sign, I’ve always loved the rain. I’ve always felt that it creates a cozy, misty curtain from the world that invites me to dream and create.

So I’m definitely in Ruskin’s camp! What a cheerful attitude! Reading his words, it strikes me that thinking about the weather outside is a lot like thinking about our writing and how it’s going inside. Weather-wise, we can complain about the rain or the cold — whatever doesn’t suit us. And writing-wise, we can feel dissatisfied or stressed about our day’s work.

And yet, just as our boy John says there is “no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather,” so it goes with our writing. In a sense, there’s no such thing as a bad writing day, because no matter how haltingly we move forward or even if we seem to be making no progress, we’re still doing what we’re meant to do. Just as the sun shines and the snow snows, we are doing the work we’ve chosen and the work that’s chosen us.

So let’s relax. Let’s just be with our writing — and let it be just as it is. If we have a “sunny” writing day, let’s enjoy it. And if it proves to be “rainy” instead, gray and overcast, let’s go with what is without judging and finding ourselves wanting — and write on.

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Something Wonderful

The rising moon has hid the stars;
Her level rays, like golden bars,
Lie on the landscape green,
With shadows brown between.

And silver white the river gleams,
As if Diana in her dreams,
Had dropt her silver bow
Upon the meadows low.

From Endymion
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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“I’m Possible”

A story: In October of 1995, Goran Knopp left Stockholm, Sweden on a bicycle and rode it to the base of Mount Everest,arriving in April of 1996. He then proceeded to climb Mount Everst without using an oxygen mask or the help of sherpas. After he reached the summit, he descended back down the mountain and eventually pedaled his way back to Sweden.

If someone invited you to embark on an adventure like this, you might say “That’s crazy!” or “That’s impossible.” Well, for some of us, it might have been crazy, but it turns out that it isn’t impossible, because our boy Goran did it.

So, it’s really impossible. It’s hard, very hard, it’s true. But it’s doable, with the right attitude and under the right circumstances.

Audrey Hepburn once pointed out that the word “Impossible” actually contains the words “I’m possible.” There’s a Mount Everest of truth in the old saying we’ve all heard, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Finding the way around a writing difficulty that seems impossible may seem daunting. But the seemingly insurmountable obstacles we face are often more manageable than we imagine. Whether it’s getting a piece published, finding an agent, orrevising a draft that’sproving resistant, there’s always a way. Sometimes we just need to change our strategy. Here’s a simple 5-step approach you cn take to get yourself moving toward turning Impossible into “I’m possible” and proving it:

  1. Ask yourself, “What’s the next step I have to take to make this happen?”
  2. Ask, “What is in the way of taking the next step? What’s the obstacle?”
  3. Remove, disregard, or ignore the obstacle.
  4. Take that next step.
  5. Go back to step 1 and repeat the process as many times as necessary.*

Sounds doable doesn’t it? It might take some planning, some brainstorming, but its doable. And once you take one step – even a baby step — in the direction of your dream or solving a tough problem, you get momentum. You’ve made progress. You’re not sitting on the sidelines having a pity party, you’re on the field playing. You’re in the game. And you need to be in it to win it!

So when that word “Impossible” rears it’s head, let’s just nod and say, “Hello, ‘I’m possible,” and figure out how to make it true. I just wrote this post in less than half an hour. Impossible? No! Write on!

  • This strategy comes to us via Dr. Rob Gilbert’s inspiring Success Hotline (973.743.4690).

 

 

 

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Having Fun

“The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.”   Alex Lowe, mountain climber

“Do what makes your soul happy.”   Sandwich Sign, The Local Cafe

Are we having fun yet?

It’s easy to forget in the day-to-day crush of trying to reach whatever goals we’ve set for ourselves that having fun is a big part of doing what you love. And if we don’t love what we’re doing, why do it?

Sure, we don’t love it all the time – 24/7 – that’s online territory: We’re not computers, thank the lord! Sometimes we struggle and get stuck. Some days, things don’t go well. Some days, we feel like throwing in the towel. And that’s OK. If we had fun all the time, then we wouldn’t really know what having fun felt like, would we?

Even so, here’s a question I’ve been pondering: Can I have fun while I’m wrestling with a tough stage in my revision the way Jacob wrestled with the angel? Can I have fun while I’m tackling something thorny, and tough, and resistant? And will having fun help me? Can bringing a more playful attitude to my problem actually be the key to solving it? Is playfulness a fruitful form of problem-solving? And is it actually more productive than pummeling myself because I’m stuck?

Right now, this morning, I’m feeling like the answer is yes. When we’re playful, we’re curious. When we’re playful, we’re open. And when we’re playful, dare I say it, we’re having fun! And the muses, I believe, are attracted to a joyful noise.

The muses are smart and clever and hip – they know a lot about creativity – it’s their stock and trade. When they see someone wringing their hands and wailing because something’s not going well, the muses know that’s a losing game. Because being angsty and feeling stressed is a one-way street with no detours: It leads in one direction: to more stress and more angst. So, when the muses see moaning, they move on.

So I’m going to drop the drama – and put on my dancing shoes today! I’m going to be grateful and joyful about working on a story that I love and that matters to me. And I’m going to play around on the page and see what bubbles up. “Don’t get frustrated, get fascinated” when you hit a problem – that’s my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert’s advice.* Sounds good to me! I’d much rather spend today exploring the Land of Possibility than stewing in the Slough of Despond. How about you? Write on!

* Be sure to check out Dr. Gilbert’s fabulous Success Hotline (973.743.4690).

 

 

 

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