Why I Write Poetry: Marie Elena Good

A few months ago, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in (details on how to contribute below). Thank you!

Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Marie Elena Good, who writes, “I just enjoy it.”

Marie Elena Good daily watched her poems accrue, while posting and hosting a blog (or two). But life called, her muse stalled; regretfully she bid adieu. With publications next to nil (and dithering on kid lit, still), her market research does her in – she hardly knows where to begin. Her bio crashed, but still she’s blessed – she gets to poem with poeming’s best!

*****

Master Poetic Forms!

Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

Click to continue.

*****

Why I Write Poetry: Marie Elena Good

Marie Elena Good

The first poem I wrote was for a second-grade homework assignment. Funny how someone who has a difficult time with memorization can effortlessly recall the final couplet of her first poem, half-a-century after composing it.

“Beauty is a stallion, running free and wild.
Beauty is the crying of a newly born child.”

I spent much of that day mulling ideas in my head, unhappy with every phrase I painstakingly forced on to the paper. I remember believing I would have to take a “zero” for this assignment. I went to bed that night feeling defeated. How would I explain to Sister Josephine that I had tried my best, but had nothing to show for it. I couldn’t sleep. Then I remember the above couplet slipping effortlessly into my restless mind. I knew this was the end of my poem, and that my task was to work in reverse to find the beginning. And so my very first poem was birthed backward, and long after I should have been asleep. (Huh. Self-prophesy, this.)

Though my personality leans self-critical, I was pleased with my poem. I took great pleasure in the marriage of rhythm and rhyme, imagery and emotion. I look back now and see it as a seed poem that remained dormant far too long. It would be nearly four decades before I would write my second, which was in response to a poetry prompt on April 1, 2009 (wink wink). Much to my surprise, I wrote and publicly shared a minimum of one poem every day that month. I continued writing daily for years, thanks to Robert and others willing to artistically splay their hearts.

Still, contemplating why I write gave me pause. Some express a need to write that nearly rivals their need to breathe. Perhaps if this described me, I’d be a better poet. Honestly though, I just enjoy it. I especially relish the short forms, as I delight in expressing much in few words.

In the interest of transparency, I have a confession: Though I enjoy writing, my joy is made complete when a poet, in whose words I find worth, finds worth in mine. (Which is just a nicer way of admitting I am an online, instant-gratification poem junkie.)

Finally, writing poetry led me to discover a deeply rooted feeling:

I may write a truth,
but it isn’t truly mine
until I poem it.

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If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.

*****

Find more poetic posts here:

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from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/write-poetry-marie-elena-good

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5-Minute Memoir: Feeling the Words You Write

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Writer’s Digest


image from Getty

BY JAMES C. MAGRUDER

It’s 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. Most people are hard at work trying to earn a living. I’m interviewing Katie, mother of three, who’s doing her best just to keep living. Katie is dying of ovarian cancer. She’s 27. She has three months left. Three months to agonize over what life might be like if her health care provider had approved appropriate chemotherapy treatment in a timely fashion. Katie’s goal now is to live till tomorrow.

For me, tomorrow is just another day—Wednesday. I’ll be writing a brochure for an architectural firm. On Thursday, I’ll write an ad for a Fortune 500 company. And on Friday, I’ll draft a speech for an executive. I’ve been hired by a local health care facility to write the story explaining how it helped prolong Katie’s life aft er a competing health care system failed her.

My tape recorder is running and as Katie answers my questions, her 4-year-old son, David, climbs into my lap and gives me a hug. Suddenly, I don’t feel like a writer. I feel as though I’m part of a similar story. My mind shoots back to a balmy June aft ernoon in 1965. My father just returned from the hospital. He calls his six children, ages 4 to 14, into his bedroom.

“Your mother passed away today,” he says. Panic seizes our hearts. My mother died aft er a short battle with cancer. She was 45. I was 11. I feel the eerie irony of David’s childhood colliding with mine. Tears well in my eyes as I know soon he will no longer enjoy the security of his mother’s embrace, the warmth of her touch, the power of her encouragement, even the fragrance of her perfume.

Back at my home office I write a lede for the story.

Cancer. Next to heart disease, it’s the leading cause of death in America. All of us know or love someone who has fallen prey to this impartial killer. If Katie Miller didn’t have to fight her former health care provider for an accurate diagnosis, she might not have to fight cancer today. Now, she’s not only fighting for her health, she’s fighting for time. This is her story.

This lede feels cold. Sterile. Empty. As I replay the interview, I sense I’m writing Katie’s story like one of my business articles—with my head. No heart.

I hammer out another lede, then another. Still sterile, unfeeling. Finally, I tap this out:

For Katie Miller, life is short. At 27, she’s just seen her last Christmas, her last wedding anniversary and her final birthday. She knows she will never see Jenny, her 6-year-old, finish the first grade. She knows she won’t be there when David, 4, loses his baby teeth. And she grieves knowing Joanna, 3, will never remember her.

Katie is dying of ovarian cancer. She has three months to live. But the real tragedy is it didn’t have to be this way.

I finish the article a few days later and send it to my client so Katie’s story can appear in a local publication.

Writing is a cerebral profession. Yet to tell Katie’s story, I needed to feel the words I wrote.

Perhaps Hemingway said it best: “A writer’s problem does not change. It’s always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it.”

I suppose I could’ve learned how to feel the words I write from Hemingway—but Katie taught me first.

James C. Magruder is a writer living in Wisconsin. He is at work on his second novel, and he blogs about the writing life at thewritersrefuge.wordpress.com.


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Submit your own 600-word essay refl ection on the writing life by emailing it to wdsubmissions@fwmedia.com with “5-Minute Memoir” in the subject line.


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Marketing & Sales Perspectives for Indie Authors

I’ve considered myself a professional writer for a little over three years now, and I’ve learned a great deal about the publishing industry in that time. Much of how I think and what I do as an independently published author parallels the experiences of my traditionally published friends, but there are also significant things that set this path apart.

A wise friend in the business gave me some good advice early on. She said, “For an indie author, publishing a book is more like a marathon than a sprint.” Now, a few years and a few projects in, I have a better understanding of what she meant.

The sales model is different for indies. Indies shouldn’t focus on brick and mortar bookstore sales because there’s no mechanism to access that market. Publishing houses have the distribution channels and sales teams that indies don’t. Instead, indies market and sell directly to readers, bypassing bookstores in favor of online or in-person sales. It’s important to use this information to our advantage, and to understand the implications of it in our planning.


This guest post is by Tabitha Lord. Lord lives in Rhode Island, a few towns away from where she grew up. She is married, has four great kids, two spoiled cats, and a lovable black lab. She holds a degree in Classics from College of the Holy Cross and taught Latin for years at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School. She also worked in the admissions office there before turning her attention to full-time writing. You can visit her blog at tabithalordauthor.com where she hosts guest bloggers, and discusses some favorite topics including parenting and her writing journey. She released her first novel, Horizon, in December 2015. It won the Grand Prize for the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards in 2016. The sequel to Horizon, Infinity, released this June.


Here are some big picture suggestions for indies to consider when creating a marketing and sales strategy from pre-launch onward:

Build and maintain a vigorous author platform.

There’s a ton of information out there on building an author platform so I’m not going to cover that here, but I mention it because, for indies especially, it’s necessary. Remember, we market and sell directly to our readers, so our readers have to be able to find and connect with us, and we need a vibrant platform from which to present our work.

By the time I released my first novel, I’d been building my author platform for a full year. I’d established a solid social media presence and tended to my online community with regularity. I had a handle on what my author brand looked like, and I was having fun blogging on my own website and writing for a book review/interview site called Book Club Babble. When my book released, I had the means to connect with my potential readers through the network I’d been creating.

Put energy into pre-orders, but realize this is only the first step in sales.

For traditionally published authors, a book’s success can hinge on early sales. Much attention is given to garnering pre-orders in hopes of pushing a book onto a bestseller list during release week. Strong pre-sales also encourage retailers to order more books, and it certainly builds momentum towards the book’s launch.

For an indie this is important, too. Pre-orders and a strong launch matter, but an indie can and should orchestrate ongoing promotions, and employ a creative, long-lasting marketing strategy, imagining the book’s launch as one among several opportunities.

Having said that, the pre-publication phase should be an active and busy time. Here are some ways to create momentum:

  • Put the book on Net Galley for early reviews.
  • Get the book set up for pre-order on the major outlets and promote it on your author platforms.
  • Consider a cover reveal promotional.
  • Be sure to have the book listed on Goodreads so early reviews can be posted. (Amazon does not allow reviews before the publication date)
  • Consider giving away the first chapter to entice subscribers to your mailing list.

Once my book released, I had a party and celebrated! Then, after taking a few days off to bask in the glow of this accomplishment, I went to work again.


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Plan a book tour. Attend signing events.

For indies, time and money are considerations. After all, no one is going to pay to send us on a cross-country book tour! But meeting people and making in-person connections can be invaluable, and they create career-long relationships with readers. See what opportunities exist in your community.

With my first book, I attended every signing opportunity offered by area libraries and bookstores, and those hosted by my local writers organization. I soon recognized that I needed to be a bit more economical with my time, and focused my attention on select events. As a science fiction writer, I thought my people might hang out at Comic Cons so I bought a table at a few and had excellent success. Find out where your audience is likely to be and focus your time and energy there.

Easier and cheaper than travel, virtual tours promote your book to a wide circle, since obviously the Internet crosses geographical lines! Not all tours are created equal though, so be sure to do your research. Your book should be featured on blogs where readers of that blog enjoy your genre. And do interact with readers who took the time to comment on your work.

You have control over your backlist titles, the timing of releases and promotions, and the price of your book. Think strategically!

When I’m asked why I decided to publish independently, I can answer honestly with one word: control. Not that I wanted to shortcut quality or put a book into the world before it was ready, but I felt empowered when I understood that I was in charge of every aspect of the publication and marketing process. Here are some ways to use the control you have to your best advantage:

  • Use pricing as a marketing tool. You are free to price your books competitively. Research the best selling price point for e-books, print books, and audio books in your genre and set accordingly.
  • Backlists titles are a powerful marketing tool. Keep putting out content. More content creates more momentum. New releases will guide readers toward your backlist. If you feel a backlist title hasn’t reached its market potential, breathe some new life into it. Repackage a series into a box set. Give an older title a shiny new cover.
  • Use discounts in your promotional plans. During the pre-release of my second book, I ran a couple of discounts on the first, using services like E-reader News and The Fussy Librarian to help promote them. Discounting an older title can hook readers onto your work and drive them toward purchasing your newest title. I definitely recommend using discount services, but, as with blog tours, do your research. None will guarantee results, but some are far more effective than others.
  • Think creatively and strategically about timing. For example, while I was away selling and signing at the Big Apple Con in NYC, I ran an e-book promotional. Horizon, my first book, finally hit the Amazon bestseller list a year after publication while I was in NYC.

I haven’t fully tapped my market yet, and I’m learning new strategies all the time, but I know I still have time, and certainly plenty of opportunity. As indies, we don’t have large distribution channels and sales teams at our disposal, but we do have control. We also have creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance. And we have the collective experiences of our community to draw from. Remember it really is a marathon, not a sprint!


If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

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An Affective Singularity

Today’s guest post, an affective singularity, comes from Nate Pritts, who shared why he writes poetry back in July (click here to read).

Nate Pritts is the Director and Founding Editor of H_NGM_N (2001), an independent publishing house that started as a mimeograph ‘zine, and the author of eight books of poetry, including Decoherence, which won the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award and is available for order now. He lives in the Finger Lakes region of NY State. Learn more at natepritts.com.

*****

Master Poetic Forms!

Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

Click to continue.

*****

An Affective Singularity

We live in a time of conspicuous destruction. Material creation, the biological sphere, spiritual reality – each of these realms are being dragged apart resulting in a fractured world marked by implacable fragmentation, forced estrangement, a fundamental decoherence.

Nate Pritts

And in the face of this relentless annihilation, language has been reduced to mere instrumentation – a function of living rather than a vibrant and intrinsic occasion through which we live. Online bursts in a closed loop, binary programming, blunt and categorical statements without any of the nuance, or the wonderful searching uncertainty, that marks the workings of consciousness. A Facebook status, a live tweet thread, hashtag #Checkedin wherever we go in order to reassure ourselves that our lives are alive on the screen – the screen that’s open in front of us, wide open in front of everyone. And our once infinite horizons, both the vast external and internal without limit, are now confined to a small rectangle of unnatural light.

The implications are dire. I believe there is a connection between our capacity to think, to feel, and our ability to articulate those processes and sensitivities. But it seems our intellect is no longer elastic enough to encompass more than echoes, can’t conceive of leaps and connections beyond repetition, can’t process the rich subtleties of emotion without relying on blunt emphasis or insistence. And so we are in danger of losing ourselves as well as the larger environment we are enmeshed with.

As language and writing suffer and erode, so to does our humanity. Which brings me to poetry. I have a sense of poetry in which the form itself – the tension of the lines, the discipline of committing to a process that takes time – can become a restorative spiritual activity. It’s an act of communication with earnest effort and diligent love inherent in its form. And there’s a way in which poetry helps me to communicate what needs to be communicated, but also encourages and scaffolds the thought process, the process of feeling. Poetry, then, is a spiritual process – a type of soul-talking. It can generate the self, and enkindle the soul, furnishing the architecture of identity through writing it and reading it. The poetry in my new book, Decoherence, seeks to bring a sense of humanist wisdom to the ceaseless flow of data – all as a way of getting us to recognize the sacred space we already inhabit.

Mircea Eliade said that the sacred is “the experience of a reality and the source of the consciousness of existing in the world.” That seems a serviceable definition of what poetry can work toward. And it is related to Eliade’s sense of hierophany, a manifestation of the sacred, a trace of the supranatural. So we have both poetry as an activity we engage in and the poem as the hand of the divine. To me, this indicates that a reinvigorated sense of the sacred can help save the very soul of the world, and that we can get closer to this through the writing of poetry.

No matter how many data points are plotted or how deep the dive into layers and layers of information, our technoscience provides insights that remain intellectual, abstracted from reality and rely on a constriction of identity, forcing it to remain local.

But people are silence, continuously manifesting outside the lines of a spreadsheet, hungry for revelation. And the world is silence, too, but one that is evocative and charged, an invisible architecture we can recognize if we listen.

Perhaps inhabiting the sacred can facilitate an encounter between the penetrating mechanisms of science and the intuitive faculties of consciousness in a way that opens perception to a fuller picture of reality.

I write poetry as an attempt to draw closer to those energies resident in all things, to listen hard and to see clearly, as a way to recover some sense of the hidden workings of reality itself. It is an attempt to pay attention to the invisible, to the unintentional, and through that attention to become aware, to render those movements visible and to reclaim intention from the machine that seems so much to be driving us.

It is a means of harnessing and honing the very substance of reality itself, of demonstrating and performing consciousness at work. The activity of poetry is larger than its result. In fact, the poem is really just a by-product of a spiritual commitment to a way of life that can change the world.

And, in this way, poetry can take on a life of it own, in us and through us, can reach an affective singularity of wisdom and tenderness and love, can become again what it has always been – a means of survival, a path to understanding.

Not a credential but a creed.

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If you’d like to share a guest post on this blog, please send an e-mail to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with your idea. It can be on the craft of writing poetry, the business of selling poems, or whatever other ideas you might have. If I like what you send, we’ll figure out how to get your guest post on the blog.

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Find more poetic posts here:

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from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/an-affective-singularity

Why We Write

The Prompt: This week’s writing prompt is a bit different than usual. Instead of telling us a fictional tale, we’d like to read about the why behind your wondrous words. Describe in the comments—in under 500 words (and in this case, brevity is best)—the reason why you love writing.

You can also share with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but be sure include the hashtag #WhyWeWrite. Your response could appear in the February 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest.

And for those of you who prefer more traditional prompts, never fear: We’ll be back next week with a thought-provoking query in our usual vein.


Need some inspiration? These famous authors have offered reasons why they write:

Gustave Flaubert
“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.”

Joan Didion
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. …What is going on in these pictures in my mind?”

Don Delillo
“I write to find out how much I know. The act of writing for me is a concentrated form of thought. If I don’t enter that particular level of concentration, the chances are that certain ideas never reach any level of fruition.”

Lord Byron
“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

Gloria Steinem
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald
“You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.”

Jennifer Egan
“When I’m writing, especially if it’s going well, I’m living in two different dimensions: This life I’m living now, which I enjoy very much, and this completely other world I’m inhabiting that no one else knows about.”

Michael Lewis
“There’s no hole inside of me to fill or anything like that, but once I started doing it, I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else for a living. I noticed very quickly that writing was the only way for me to lose track of the time.”

George Orwell
“Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood.”

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