The turn of weather is a great time to take your writing through a poetic carwash. Fall is my absolute favorite season, and I love the poetry inspired by the leaves' changing colors, the biting cold that whips through my hair, and the dulling sun in the late afternoon sky.
Take a moment to visit these sites, read some verse, and give your writing a seasonal lift.
Here are my go-to sites and a few seasonal writings that offer dimensional imagery and language to my writing.
1. The Poetry Foundation
Grace Paley's Autumn.
2. Academy of American Poets
Noah Falck's from "You are in Nearly Every Future"
3. The Poem Hunter
John Keats' Ode to Autumn (I recommend you mute the computer-generated narration)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's The Autumn
If you are participating in NaNoWriMo and need an infusion of color and life or if you simply wish to take in the beauty of this season, discover again the color of poetry and let it drench your prose with folly.
Share your whimsy here. Do you have a favorite verse or site you like? I'd love to know.
Whether you're a writer, artist, bus driver or parent, you have some kind of rhythm in your life. However, you might not be totally aware of it.
Saturday morning, my daughter sat down for her usual piano lesson. Despite the rising summer heat, her teacher sat on the couch in his typical attire, a three-piece suit and tie. Beads of sweat pooled on his forehead, but he was as jovial as ever. Daniel had a rhythm in his life, and he knew it.
He enjoys connecting with his students. It's evident in the laughter and banter exchanged with the eye-rolling youth who sit before him plucking away at black and white keys. Daniel either does not notice their indignance, or he ignores it. Maybe, he's just too busy sharing his own stories.
Daniel loves to tell stories almost as much as he loves teaching piano.
In between errant notes, he shares tales of "when I was your age". I sit upstairs, my ear tilted toward the doorway. I love Daniel's stories. At first, I thought, why is he wasting my daughter's time with his silly memories. Then I realized his stories had a purpose. His stories connect him to his students. They make him real, fallible, and vulnerable.
Deep down, my daughter adores her piano teacher. I don't know if she'll remember his stories; I do know that she'll take his passion and joy with her.
Piano teaching is his passion, but the stories that connect him to his students are his rhythm.
If writing is my passion, what's my rhythm?
It could be the joy I receive from writing, the connections I make to the reader, to myself. Writing can be a solitary task; you need to connect to those you write for. Otherwise, you lose the passion, the joy, the rhythm.
Whether it's a contemporary piece or genre specific like a horror or fantasy, you need to find that connection to your readers' lives. People love stories, but they want them to mean something.
How do you connect to your readers? What's your passion in life? What's your rhythm?
This week, I respond to Charli Mills' invitation to answer the question: Why do I write?
As the summer winds down and another new school year nears, I feel the shakes begin. My summer morning break of dawn habit is about to die out, hibernate for another 9 months, lurk and twist beneath my itching derma. My writing habit must quiet and slow.
It's not how I want it; it's how it must be. I will certainly try to wake a half hour earlier, in the predawn darkness of my warm bed, slither out onto the floor and feel in the blackness for my one-eyed blinking laptop. Some days will merit worth, others will succumb to the nurturing folds of that maternal duvet.
I write because it is my soul's path.
Back in the 70s when I was a school girl, I'd lay across my bedroom floor's pink shag carpet and scribble out verses and stories and diary entries. Any school assignment that required writing, I could do it in my sleep. (Math lessons left me in fits of tears at my father's feet.)
I write because it fills my being with joy.
As that same girl, I would also spend summers in the pool. When not in the pool, I'd be on my bike pedaling to the library. Reading filled my imagination, connected me to worlds I hadn't encountered, drew me into lives of wonder. Fueled by the ideas of Judy Blume, E.B.White, Roald Dahl, I soon found myself bursting with my own tales to pen. When my English teachers encouraged my work, there was no stopping me.
I write because it helps me make sense of a senseless world.
Navigating through adolescence is never easy. It's the theme of most of my books. Again, my path cleared with the help of writers: Austen, Salinger, Lee, and the Bronte sisters. I soon understood that writers had a greater purpose. Writers help us find connections to ourselves and others. They provide us with a foundation when the ground beneath us is cracking. Writers open us up to worlds unknown and offer personal portals to the very confusing world we live in.
I write for the same reasons that I breathe. Without it, I'd cease to be.
I'd like to introduce you to three other writers whose pen has touched my heart. Please visit them. I'd love to hear your comments, too. Why do you write?
Natalie Corbett Sampson Natalie Corbett Sampson lives in Hatchet Lake, Nova Scotia with her husband, four school-aged Munsters and a menagerie of pets. Her day job is a speech language pathologist where she loves helping children improve their ability to communicate with the world around them. When she’s not working, writing or sitting in a hockey rink Natalie loves reading, photography and drawing. You can learn more about Natalie and follow her publishing journey on her blog: www.NatalieCorbettSampson.com.
Ruben Castaneda is a Los Angeles native and former award-winning journalist for the Washington Post. His first book, "S Street Rising", chronicles his time covering the 1980s and 90s crack epidemic in our nation's capital while battling his own addiction with the drug. Ruben mentored me on the Los Angeles Herald Examiner where we covered the outbreak of gang violence and innocent victims caught in the crossfire.
Samantha Williams's first novel is due out later this year. She is the co-founder of PageCurl Publishing, a group of writers who publish and promote indie writers.
Kids love to share memories. Nothing beats a 10-year-old saying, "When I was little...". Memory defies time; even though as we age, we define our memories by time.
When I was a kid...
Last year, I remember...
This reminds me of when I was in college, and...
Memory defines us. Memory is experience, emotion, friendship. It is the collection of moments that form who we were and who we have become. There is an importance to memory.
So it shouldn't really surprise me when a young child wants to share her memories. Memories connect us.
This past month, I've been fortunate to spend several hours visiting and reading to elementary students. I have shared various chapters from my middle grade narrative, "This Girl Climbs Trees". In one class, I was moved to laughter and tears as students shared memories of trees in their lives. One girl told of a beautiful lemon tree that sat in the yard, from which they did not remove the fruit but which offered a place of shade and beauty until her father cut it down. Another boy told of a tree at his former home that the neighbor insisted be removed due to its invasive roots and dead leaves on their property. This injustice troubled the boy, and he insisted his family's next home have a tree further from any neighbor's yard. They just planted a Birch.
They have a wide front yard.
The students' stories inspired me. I had no idea that Eliza Mills (the central character) had so much in common with real live kids. I made up Eliza. I made up the entire story. Yet real children (and adults) continue to share with me their memories of a favorite tree.
So I'd like to offer this challenge: In 150 words or less, write a memory of your tree. How did you connect with it? What do you now observe as the importance of this tree, this memory? Post your short passage here or on your own site. Paste a link in the comments below so that we can read it.
You might be surprised what comes up as you explore the importance of memory. I'll post mine this week. You have forever, but I will shout out my favorite on Twitter next Sunday. Please connect with me there and leave your Twitter handle here. If you are under 18, please let me know so you can get your own awesome shout out!
Thanks! Good luck.
He published nearly 50 books for children, and when we think of him, we smile. Theodor Seuss Giesel mastered whimsey. His stories themselves sparkled with folly and fun. Add to the verse his nonsensical cartoons and caricatures of personality and you hold in your hand a ticket to the world's best carnival.
Most American children know at least one Seuss tale: "The Cat in the Hat", "Green Eggs and Ham", "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish". Children around the world also revel in his nonsensical rhymes and art. His words taught us to read, his stories taught us to wonder. Dr. Seuss mastered whimsey.
As a writer of young adult realistic fiction, you might wonder why I'd spend time reminiscing about an author for preschoolers. Young Adult fiction is a magical place. Our stories hold the hands of young people on the precipice of adulthood. We explore the loss of innocence, rites of passage, moral dilemmas, struggles with friendship, truth, vanity, family, and death. So did Dr. Seuss.
Sally and her brother must decide whether to partake in the Cat's fun and risk disappointing their mother. A boy feels the weight of the world on his shoulders and struggles with how to save the environment. A big clumsy elephant hears voices before he discovers a tiny unseen world, which he must now protect.
Dr. Seuss tackled large themes of youth, moral dilemmas, the conflict with self and society. Dr. Seuss provided plots and themes for adult tales. He did not forget us at that doorstep of darkness, he took our hand and guided us through to the other side of color, light and whimsey.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss. Thanks for the fun.
Whenever I'm stuck in my writing, I take a moment to step outside. I join in as life's spectator and observe the real world around me.
Typically, most of us write inside, at a table, on a chair, maybe in bed. With a pen and paper, tablet or laptop, or a typewriter. Doesn't matter. We are set indoors with our 21st century tools.
That doesn't mean we are locked in. Everywhere I've set myself up for writing, I've arranged my desk at a window.
I need to see out so that I can grow what is within.
I'm not distracted. Rather, I'm inspired. And I'm reminded of what is real. This connection to the world keeps me tethered in my fantasy. I can stretch as far out as I need while keeping an anchor on what is real and possible.
If my character is stuck (read: I'm stuck), a gaze out my window at a car passing by or a small boy walking a big dog or postman carting a heavy bag usually does the trick. Life has given me a new event to help my plot along. If this particular character is searching for something, maybe a letter arrives in the mail. Or a child asks him to help find his lost dog. Or he crashes his car into a light post and a stranger who comes to help knows something about what it is he's searching for. Anything is possible. You are the magician; you just need to reach down inside that magic bag.
When you are stuck, look outside your window. Step outside your fixed world of metal and keyboards and paper and pens. If art is to imitate life, we must participate in life. Start off as the spectator, the rest will fall into place.
Something magical about the change of seasons. Like that moment the elevator meets its desired floor, the doors open, the cage settles, and you step out. It's a visible moment in time, unlike every other ordinary passing of seconds to minutes to hours that arrive and depart without fanfare.
Fall is over. Winter has arrived. Did you see it? Did you smell that instant when the earth offered its final tilt, the sun positioned itself just so? The solstice - an astronomical event that happens only twice each year. This is my 100th solstice. I mark the event with awe and humility.
I take this centennial celebration and embrace its magic, swallowing all of its beauty and mystery into the wondrous vessel of my being. Today, I am filled with magic. Today, this day of wonder. Let no moment pass without my knowing, that is my wish, that is my intention. Today, I am a snowflake, unique and ever-changing until I fall to earth. Today, I am suspended in the ethers, filled with possibilities yet unseen.