Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Author web presence

One of the pluses of the Internet is how easy it makes networking and keeping in touch with other writers. Joining writing groups helps in that department. I am a member of two - Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship and The Word Guild. Both offer much to Canadian writers who are Christian.

Last week on our yahoo discussion board The Word Guild, our president Denise Rumble invited us to talk about our blogs. Not surprisingly the invitation was followed by a blizzard of URLs. Kimberley Payne - Word Guild member and encourager par excellence - has compiled them into a tidy list and shares them with us at the group blog The Writer's Crucible.


But is all that blogging, facebooking and twittering helpful?
"Now that just about every writer has a Web site, blog and/or MySpace, Facebook and GoodReads pages, are they finding the effort of keeping up with it all worthwhile? Do authors even need a Web presence?"

Maybe you too have asked the question with which Judith Rosen begins her Publisher's Weekly article "Finding Value in Author Web Sites." Read the entire article here.

h/t Joanna Mallory

Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review: Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

Title: Until We Reach Home
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0495-1
ISBN-10: 0-7642-0495-1

The only way 19-year-old Elin Carlson can make sure her sisters are safe from Uncle Sven is to keep them in sight every moment or move away from their Swedish farm. When Uncle Lars sends tickets, she knows moving to America is the solution. But how will she convince shy 16-year-old Sofia and willful 18-year-old Kirsten that leaving home is best – without sharing her own dark secret?

All through the long voyage, she encourages her stubborn and despondent sisters with dreams of how wonderful life in America will be. But when they arrive and things only get worse, the girls’ bonds of sisterly loyalty and love are tested almost to breaking. In Until We Reach Home, Lynn Austin tells a tale of three Swedish sisters coming to America in 1897. Will they every find their place, a place that is as much a home as the one they lost when Mama and Papa died?

Austin tells the story from the viewpoint of each sister. In this way we get to know them equally well and are privy to their secrets, secrets that affect their behavior and have them acting like typical siblings -- from snippy to loving -- towards each other. A few despicable secondary characters, romances found in unlikely places, and an ending as neatly symmetrical as a Shakespearean comedy make Until We Reach Home a satisfying read from beginning to end.

Besides being complex, realistic and interesting, I found Elin, Kirsten, and Sofia the most sympathetic of all characters I’ve met so far in Austin’s books. Their vulnerability and innocence had me worried about their safety. Their flaws helped me identify and sympathize with each

I like the way Austin’s writing doesn’t get in the way of her storytelling. Her style is clear, direct and often vivid. And even though she moves from sister to sister to do the telling, I was never confused about whose head I was in. If a piece of fiction’s job is to give the reader an experience of a different time and place, this book certainly succeeds. Here, for example, we experience the ship to America through Sofia’s eyes:

Sofia tried to make the best of it for the next couple of days, but no matter where she went there were always hordes of foul-smelling people reeking of perspiration packed tightly beside her like herring in a barrel. In good weather, everyone crowded up on deck and the men smoked pungent cigarettes, making it impossible to breathe the clean ocean air. Sofia had taken the aroma of sweet, fresh air for granted all her life, but now she hungered for just a tiny whiff of hay or pine trees or even the barnyard.
Austin explores the themes of family and finding a home. Three women characters fighting and winning against adversity send a message of women’s empowerment. She underlines, through Sofia, the facts of God’s love and forgiveness. The story also gives insights into Swedish culture and how difficult being a non-English speaking immigrant must be. The way Austin depicts the American Swedish community in Chicago felt altogether believable with its old-world village mentality.

If you’re looking for a captivating read that will whisk you away to a time and place 100 years ago, Until We Reach Home fits the bill. At 428 pages you might even be able to stretch it out over several days – if you can bear to set it down.

More review of books by Lynn Austin:

A Proper Pursuit

A Woman's Place

Gods and Kings

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Poem - Christmas embers

American Life in Poetry: Column 195

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Here is a poem, much like a prayer, in which the Michigan poet Conrad Hilberry asks for no more than a little flare of light, an affirmation, at the end of a long, cold Christmas day.


Christmas Night

Let midnight gather up the wind
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,
sleet in their fur--last one can blow

the streetlights out. If children sleep
after the day's unfoldings, the wheel
of gifts and griefs, may their breathing
ease the strange hollowness we feel.

Let midnight draw whoever's left
to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls
low mutterings of smoke until
a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.

- Conrad Hilberry

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2008 by Conrad Hilberry, whose most recent book of poetry is "After-Music," Wayne State University Press, 2008. Poem reprinted from "The Hudson Review," Vol. 60, no. 4, Winter 2008, by permission of Conrad Hilberry. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Poem - more than one way to do math

American Life in Poetry: Column 194

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Father and child doing a little math homework together; it's an everyday occurrence, but here, Russell Libby, a poet who writes from Three Sisters Farm in central Maine, presents it in a way that makes it feel deep and magical.


Applied Geometry

Applied geometry,
measuring the height
of a pine from
like triangles,
Rosa's shadow stretches
seven paces in
low-slanting light of
late Christmas afternoon.
One hundred thirty nine steps
up the hill until the sun is
finally caught at the top of the tree,
let's see,
twenty to one,
one hundred feet plus a few to adjust
for climbing uphill,
and her hands barely reach mine
as we encircle the trunk,
almost eleven feet around.
Back to the lumber tables.
That one tree might make
three thousand feet of boards
if our hearts could stand
the sound of its fall.

- Russell Libby

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Russell Libby, whose most recent book is "Balance: A Late Pastoral," Blackberry Press, 2007. Reprinted from "HeartLodge," Vol. III, Summer 2007, by permission of Russell Libby. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Poem - Winter white

American Life in Poetry: Column 193

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The first two lines of this poem pose a question many of us may have thought about: how does snow make silence even more silent? And notice Robert Haight's deft use of color, only those few flecks of red, and the rest of the poem pure white. And silent, so silent. Haight lives in Michigan, where people know about snow.



How Is It That the Snow

How is it that the snow
amplifies the silence,
slathers the black bark on limbs,
heaps along the brush rows?

Some deer have stood on their hind legs
to pull the berries down.
Now they are ghosts along the path,
snow flecked with red wine stains.

This silence in the timbers.
A woodpecker on one of the trees
taps out its story,
stopping now and then in the lapse
of one white moment into another.

- Robert Haight

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2002 by Robert Haight from his most recent book of poetry, "Emergences and Spinner Falls," New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2002. Reprinted by permission of Robert Haight. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Read about writing

Some excellent reading about writing in these links:

Write a scintillating blog posts.
"Blogging is about writing"
Toque-tip: Belinda at Whatever He Says

What are teens reading these days?
"On the Edge: Teen Reads"
Toque-tip: NJ at Blue Collar Writer

Write a Christmas poem. My newest Poet's Classroom column has 16 poem prompts to help you write fresh Christmas verse.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekly Inspiratioon


If you need a little writerly inspiration in your in-box every week, Children's Writer eNews is free from the Institute of Children's Literature.

Each week it's crammed with encouragement and advice -- like this bit about how to take writing advantage of the busy schedule and sensory overload of the holidays (no author given but probably authored by Jan Field, the writer who puts this e-bulletin together)

8. Sensory Snapshots

I'm not a big fan of writing exercises -- if you are, I respect that. For me, I'm lazy. If I'm writing, I'm probably going to try to sell it at some point. But sometimes a writing exercise can help us hone skills and get a bit of writing in during a really hectic time (like the holidays?) So here's an exercise I do a lot and one that frequently finds its way into my published work: sensory snapshots.

No time of year offers more sensory impressions than the holidays with rich foods and much more contact with people and places. So I try to take a moment and write a quick sensory map of something different every day. I might jot down connections, impressions, figures of speech, and pure clinical description about the act of eating my first Clementine of the year or my first sip of egg nog.

Equally, I might make the same kinds of sensory lists about the stores I'm in, the lines I wait in, the airport...all of these offer me a chance to capture the moment in words so that I can retrieve it later. Then, if I need to build a scene in one of these settings, I have a “record” of the kinds of sights, sounds, smells and textures my characters might encounter. I keep these “sensory records” in a notebook with tabs for different categories. Then when I write a scene set at a zoo, for example, I can pull out several “sensory records” – one made at a small zoo, one from a nature park, and one from the National Zoo in Washington. They remind me of small details I might use.

So, this year, consider a few of these sensory records so then when you need to put your teen characters in a crowded mall full of whiney kids, you can make the reader beleive it completely. Or when your character catches snowflakes on her tongue, you have the exact words to capture the taste and feel. Memory is great, but how much better is it when you can pull the actual moment from your file.

Here's what the current bulletin looks like.

Subscribe from here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Poem - Their beach

American Life in Poetry: Column 192

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Class, status, privilege; despite all our talk about equality, they're with us wherever we go. In this poem, Pat Mora, who grew up in a Spanish speaking home in El Paso, Texas, contrasts the lives of rich tourists with the less fortunate people who serve them. The titles of poems are often among the most important elements, and this one is loaded with implication.



Fences

Mouths full of laughter,
the turistas come to the tall hotel
with suitcases full of dollars.

Every morning my brother makes
the cool beach new for them.
With a wooden board he smooths
away all footprints.

I peek through the cactus fence
and watch the women rub oil
sweeter than honey into their arms and legs
while their children jump waves
or sip drinks from long straws,
coconut white, mango yellow.

Once my little sister
ran barefoot across the hot sand
for a taste.

My mother roared like the ocean,
"No. No. It's their beach.
It's their beach."

- Pat Mora

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 1991 by Pat Mora, whose most recent book of poetry is "Adobe Odes," University of Arizona Press, 2007. Poem reprinted from "Communion," Arte Publico Press, University of Houston, 1991, by permission of the writer and publisher. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Review: Hot Apple Cider Edited by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Anne Nelles


Title: Hot Apple Cider - Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul
Author: Edited by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Anne Nelles
Publisher: That's Life! Communications (May 15, 2008)
ISBN-10:
0978496302
ISBN-13:
978-0978496302

True stories that deliver a shot of inspiration, non-fiction pieces that get you thinking, Robert Service-like poetry that champions the cause of the poor and hurting, and fiction that delivers truth with a pinch of drama and humor: Hot Apple Cider - Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul has them all. This anthology of 44 pieces by 30 Canadian authors was conceived and compiled by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Anne Nelles, co-founders of The Word Guild, an association of Canadian writers who are Christian.

“Today many Canadian Christians are realizing that they’d like to read literature that reflects their own culture, values and experiences,” says Lindquist in the introduction. Janette Oke in the foreword says, “I feel a bit proud in knowing that we, here in Canada, have so many skilled, inspirational writers who are able to present their work – their words – in this way.”

Hot Apple Cider does feature writing from across the dominion (although it's light on writers from Quebec, the Maritimes, and the Territories). In it you’ll read about a Lethbridge pioneer woman who championed the rights of women and the poor, a perceptive Yukoner who kept showing up, like an angel, when a lonely soul needed her the most, a childless Ontario couple who had their prayers answered in a most unexpected way, and many other accounts about the intersection of life and faith. Stories from abroad are also well-represented and include a tale of tragedy in the Australian Outback, a birth crisis in Nepal, and a terrifying night in a drug dealer’s apartment in Boston.

Besides being a powerful book in its own right, Hot Apple Cider also has value as a sampler. Many of the pieces are extracted from full-length works. Don’t be surprised if this book has you adding titles to the list of volumes you’ll want to read in their entirety – books like Seven Angels for Seven Days by Angelina Fast-Vlaar, Where Have all the Mothers Gone? by Jean Froese, M.D., Why Does God Allow Suffering?: An MD Examines by Brad Burke M.D., and a host of others.

Hot Apple Cider’s honest and thought-provoking writing combined with its tasteful cover and apple-themed photo illustrations may find you thinking of purchasing copies as gifts. And what better gift could you give than a book brimming with heart-warming stories to sip at over the Christmas season – or any season for that matter?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Poem - Indestructible

American Life in Poetry: Column 191

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Most of us love to find things, and to discover a quarter on the sidewalk can make a whole day seem brighter. In this poem, Robert Wrigley, who lives in Idaho, finds what's left of a Bible, and describes it so well that we can almost feel it in our hands.


Finding a Bible in an Abandoned Cabin

Under dust plush as a moth's wing,
the book's leather cover still darkly shown,
and everywhere else but this spot was sodden
beneath the roof's unraveling shingles.
There was that back-of-the-neck lick of chill
and then, from my index finger, the book

opened like a blasted bird. In its box
of familiar and miraculous inks,
a construction of filaments and dust,
thoroughfares of worms, and a silage
of silverfish husks: in the autumn light,
eight hundred pages of perfect wordless lace.

- Robert Wrigley

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Robert Wrigley, whose most recent book of poetry is "Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems," Penguin, 2006. Poem reprinted from "The Hudson Review," Vol. LIX, no. 4, Winter, 2007, by permission of Robert Wrigley. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cut-and-paste books


"Professor's Choice" is a custom publishing program from St. Mary's Press that was launched at the recent meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). It uses print on demand (POD) and licensed content in a way that allows college and university teachers teaching religion to "mix content chunks—book chapters, images, maps, glossaries—into a course book that can be shipped within 48 hours."

Read entire "Trend-Spotting at AAR"

At the same conference, Simon and Schuster's President and CEO Carolyn Reidy called for CBA to, in effect, make lemonade out of the current crop of lemons. Some of her suggestions:

"...making entire catalogues available as eBooks for electronic reading devices, to create possibilities for print-on-demand when a title becomes slow selling, to design new work flow and supply chain practice systems, and to delineate new policies to address complicated issues such as international territories, pricing, the security of our copyrights and royalty rates for those formats."


Read entire "Reidy Urges Publishers and Retailers to See Challenges as 'Opportunities.'"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Poem - Scissor Hands

American Life in Poetry: Column 188

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Occupational hazards, well, you have to find yourself in the occupation to know about those. Here Minnie Bruce Pratt of Alabama gives us an inside look at a kind of work we all have benefited from but may never have thought much about.



Cutting Hair

She pays attention to the hair, not her fingers, and cuts herself
once or twice a day. Doesn't notice anymore, just if the blood
starts flowing. Says, Excuse me, to the customer and walks away
for a band-aid. Same spot on the middle finger over and over,
raised like a callus. Also the nicks where she snips between
her fingers, the torn webbing. Also spider veins on her legs now,
so ugly, though she sits in a chair for half of each cut, rolls around
from side to side. At night in the winter she sleeps in white
cotton gloves, Neosporin on the cuts, vitamin E, then heavy
lotion. All night, for weeks, her white hands lie clothed like
those of a young girl going to her first party. Sleeping alone,
she opens and closes her long scissors and the hair falls under
her hands. It's a good living, kind of like an undertaker,
the people keep coming, and the hair, shoulder length, French
twist, braids. Someone has to cut it. At the end she whisks
and talcums my neck. Only then can I bend and see my hair,
how it covers the floor, curls and clippings of brown and silver,
how it shines like a field of scythed hay beneath my feet.

- Minnie Bruce Pratt

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2003 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Reprinted from "The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems," University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003, by permission of the publisher. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Writer's Digest Bookclub - bye bye

If you were a member of the Writer's Digest Book Club, you will know that it is no more. The last orders had to be placed by October 31.

However, the WD people have left former members with a parting gift - a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com for free!

I activated my membership about a week ago and discovered a little treasure chest of goodies.

- Current market news.
- An encyclopedia of writer terms.
- An agent Q&A guide.
- A manuscript tracking tool.
- Mega articles of "Expert Advice" in eight categories including Beginners, Greeting Cards and Scriptwriting.
- A market search box. Simply put in the name of the publication, click on "Go" and voila, a page of information appears with publication facts including URL, payment details, link to guidelines page etc. - all the things you'd find in a paper market guide.

You might want to check out WritersMarket.com. Even a paid membership isn't too too pricey.

Of course you can still buy Writers Digest books online through the F+W Publications Bookstore (but it's not the old Writer's Digest Bookclub *sigh*).

Friday, November 07, 2008

Book review: Waiting for Daybreak by Kathryn Cushman


Title: Waiting for Daybreak
Author: Kathryn Cushman
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2008, paperback, 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN-10: 0764203819
ISBN-13: 978-0764203817

It's Christmas Eve, but Paige Woodward doesn't anticipate a merry one. She's just been fired from her pharmacy job at a big HMO and her Mom's cancer tests have come back positive again. In fact, the seemingly idyllic holiday evening that begins Kathryn Cushman's second novel, Waiting for Daybreak, is only the beginning of a long night for the Nashville pharmacist.

When Paige's subsequent low-wage job at the free clinic peters out, a job offer from Lee Richardson - complete with decent wages, a signing bonus and a location close to where she lives - seems like an answer to her family's prayers for Mom's treatment money. But is it really a godsend? Her new boss, Lee's granddaughter Clarissa, makes life difficult from day one. Paige bends over backward - too far? - to get along. However, when Clarissa continues to cut corners and bend Pharmacy Board rules, Paige confronts her - hang the fallout. She's learned a thing or two about consequences and wrecked careers (talk about the consequences after that!). Will the waking nightmare that began Christmas Eve and continues through a spring of suspicion, setups, lies and pending lawsuits ever end?

The pharmacy setting, where one mistake can prove deadly, is perfect for the suspenseful plot involving the dueling pharmacists. Each has her own reason for wanting to succeed, and her own way of making sure it will happen. Wily Clarissa with her confidence, determination, sense of entitlement and family resources is a formidable foe. Throughout the book Paige faces a Job-like barrage of problems. All this, along with a little romance, keeps the reader off-balance and transfixed.

Cushman's characters are layered, complex and interesting. Main characters Paige, Clarissa and Dawn, the pharmacy tech, all come to life with weaknesses and redeeming qualities. I have one quibble in this department, though. When the mostly sinister Clarissa makes a complete turnaround in one afternoon, I felt a little 'used', considering how much energy I had spent disliking her through most of the book.

Though the action does at times have the feel of an afternoon soap (maybe because of the female rivalry), its serious themes elevate it into something much more. Paige is outspoken about her Christian faith, which is constantly being tested. Cushman handles the faith angle without apology, albeit with a light touch through elderly Ora Vaerge, who regularly challenges Paige to squeeze relevant application from Bible verses that pop into her head. The importance of honesty and communication are themes that come through as well. And though not overt, the book does make subtle observations about the pharmaceutical industry and malpractice suits within the medical system.

All in all, Waiting for Daybreak is another sticky Cushman book - one that once you start, you won't want to put down until you're done.

Friday poem - Remembering

American Life in Poetry: Column 189

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

In celebration of Veteran's Day, here is a telling poem by Gary Dop, a Minnesota poet. The veterans of World War II, now old, are dying by the thousands. Here's one still with us, standing at Normandy, remembering.


Mural from Vernon, B.C.

On Swearing

In Normandy, at Point Du Hoc,
where some Rangers died,
Dad pointed to an old man
20 feet closer to the edge than us,
asking if I could see
the medal the man held
like a rosary.
As we approached the cliff
the man's swearing, each bulleted
syllable, sifted back
toward us in the ocean wind.
I turned away,
but my shoulder was held still
by my father's hand,
and I looked up at him
as he looked at the man.

- Gay Dop


Mural at the Cenotaph, Vernon, B.C.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Gary Dop. Reprinted from "Whistling Shade," Summer, 2007, by permission of Gary Dop. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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I also blogged here today.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Book-making explained


If you've always wondered how picture books are made, and how to fit your text onto the limited number of pages (and what is the number of pages available for text and pictures in a picture book anyway?), wonder no more. Editorial Anonymous takes the mystique out of the picture book process -- in her always informative (and snarky) way.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

book marketing - out of the box, onto the web


Lately book marketing has jumped out of its box. Though the touring author making appearances to read and sign at the local bookstore might still happen, there is definitely a trend toward virtual marketing. Here are some strategies that I've come across (even participated in) in the past few years.

1. The blog tour:
A publishing house or author lines up bloggers who are willing to do one or both of:
- review a newly published book on their blog.
- interview the author on their blog.
Each blogger is assigned a date to post. The interviews are usually done by email -- or podcast if that's the medium of preference.

For example, I participated in Sharon Hinck's blog tour for The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Bethany House) in 2006. Here's the author's side of it. And here's my interview.

The blog tour puts the book on display in front of various audiences and helps connects readers with authors.

2. Social networking:
If you're a writer and a member of Facebook, you've probably been asked to be part of a book promotion network. My latest experience is with author Jeanne Damoff. Her book Parting the Waters, the story of her son Jacob's life-changing accident, has just been released. The "Parting the Waters Group" includes information about the book, a photo album, lots of opportunity to comment and has 273 members. As one of those I got the word as soon as it hit the street (and also knew that I could pre-order before that).

3. Virtual film festival:
David Athey, author of Danny Gospel (Bethany House), is sponsoring a contest for videographers. The challenge is to make a three- to five-minute video of a scene from his book (not from the final two chapters though), submit it to YouTube, and email the link to him. There will be a big screen viewing of submissions in real time and a cash prize to the winning video. (Now there's a way to get people to read your book -- and closely too!) Danny Gospel also has a Facebook page.

And how is David Athey getting the word out? One way is by asking former reviewers -- moi, for example -- to post a notice.


4. Sizzling web page:
Your book should have its own web page. The page for Ted Dekker's newest release Sinner (www.dontdenythetruth.com) is an example of how multi-pronged such a page can be. It includes:
  • video clips of the author explaining what the Sinner is about and talking about the process writing it.
  • a club to join.
  • free youth leader resources.
  • link to YouTube channel with five short videos that explore issues discussed in the book.
  • a form to email the site's URL to a friend.
  • an essay discussing issues in the book.
  • a podcast about the book.

What's common to all these ideas? They all aim to:
- Get people involved with the book and its ideas.
- Get people involved with the author.
- Get people to spread the word.

For more about what's happening in the realm of writers, books, readers and the media, especially in Canada, visit the Future Tense blog.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Poetry gift ideas for Christmas

Are you a poet or lover of poetry? My latest Poet's Classroom column, "Give Poetry for Christmas" is full of ideas on how to give away your poems and the poems of others.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Chapbooks

For all my poet friends who are thinking of assembling some chapbooks of their work, there's a fine post on the Poetic Asides blog called "What makes a great chapbook?" It's actually a collection of responses to the question that Robert Brewer, the Poetic Asides' blogmeister, received from poets on the PA Facebook page.

And speaking of chapbooks, I have two for sale. You may not consider them 'great' - but they're mine and I feel like them a bit like I feel about my kids -- it's hard to be objective.


Calendar (2004). Regularly sells for $8.00 Cdn.
(The first print run sold out; the reprinted edition has a slightly different cover)


Family Reunion (2007). Regularly sells for $17.00 Cdn.


But for you a good deal!

For a limited time you can have both for $20 (both U.S. or Canadian funds -- and that includes postage).

Email me to order.

Offer expires December 31, 2008.

Friday, October 31, 2008

book review Wind River by Tom Morrisey

Title: Wind River
Author:
Tom Morrisey
Publisher: Bethany House, July 2008, paperback, 352 pages
Genre: Christian fiction, Adventure, Outdoors
ISBN-10:
0764203479
ISBN-13: 978-0764203473



Tyler Perkins returns from the war in Iraq weighed down by what has happened to him. To his wife Angie he seems like a different man. So when Ty’s 86-year-old friend Soren Andeman drops strong hints that he’d like Ty to take him on one last hike to Clear Lake in their beloved Wyoming mountains, Angie urges him to go.

Right from the start this sentimental fishing trip — the story author Tom Morrisey tells in Wind River — has its complications. Why does Ty remove his wedding band before entering the lodge where his old flame still works? How will Soren hike all the way up to Clear Lake with his gimpy hip and fragile heart? The men do eventually get there but a few days later even tinder dry conditions and word of a roaming bear don’t deter Soren from setting out on the even more challenging hike to Cirque Lake. Why is it so important to him? Ty discovers there are lessons for him too in the events that haunt the place.

The Wyoming mountain setting is one of the things that makes this story special. Morrisey has obviously hiked and fished in these places. His respect for nature and love of spending time in it is contagious. Throughout we feel as if we’re part of the action – fly-fishing, cooking on open fires, eating fresh-caught trout, sleeping under the lightning-washed sky, and hiking the high ridges.

The two main characters Ty and Soren come alive in Morrisey’s hands. Ty, seen first in his Stafford Virginia home then later in the mountains, seems authentic in both places. We can’t help but admire his loyalty and like him for the way he respects and takes care of his old friend. From our first meeting with Soren we are struck by his determination and stoicism in the face of pain. Later, when he tells a large chunk of his story in first person, his salt-of-the-earth personality becomes even more lifelike.

Morrisey’s writing style brings to mind realist paintings. His descriptions of nature are detailed and lyrical. His way of recounting the minutiae of the most mundane tasks puts the reader in the middle of the action. Note, for example, with how much particularity he describes the simple and familiar action of lighting a camp stove:

Soren put his thumb over the air hold and began pumping up the stove, building pressure in the fuel reservoir. He opened the gas orifice and turned the little striker in the burner bowl. Yellow flames danced up and Soren adjusted the burner, bringing it down to a ring of small blue flames. In seconds the stove began to hiss as the heat of the burner warmed the generator tube.
But the story turns out to be about more than nature’s grandeur and the joys and challenges men face when they interact with it. As Ty and Soren spend time together they confide secrets and learn about each other, themselves, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness, facing the past and the importance of truth. Thus Wind River becomes the story of a double exploit. Not only is it an outdoor adventure of a young man and his old friend revisiting their favorite Wyoming mountain fishing spot (fly fishers will find Morrisey an especially kindred spirit), but it’s also a spiritual adventure about finding the courage to face the past and live truthfully and responsibly in the present. Whichever side of the story you’re after, Wind River won’t disappoint.

Friday Poem - Humility

American Life in Poetry: Column 188

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I really like this poem by Dick Allen, partially for the way he so easily draws us in, with his easygoing, conversational style, but also for noticing what he has noticed, the overlooked accompanist there on the stage, in the shadow of the singer.



The Accompanist

I've always worried about you--the man or woman
at the piano bench,
night after night receiving only such applause
as the singer allows: a warm hand please,
for my accompanist. At concerts,
as I watch your fingers on the keys,
and how swiftly, how excellently
you turn sheet music pages,
track the singer's notes, cover the singer's flaws,
I worry about whole lifetimes,
most lifetimes
lived in the shadows of reflected fame;
but then the singer's voice dies
and there are just your last piano notes,
not resentful at all,
carrying us to the end, into those heartfelt cheers
that spring up in little patches from a thrilled audience
like sudden wildflowers bobbing in a rain
of steady clapping. And I'm on my feet, also,
clapping and cheering for the singer, yes,
but, I think, partially likewise for you
half-turned toward us, balanced on your black bench,
modest, utterly well-rehearsed,
still playing the part you've made yours.

- Dick Allen

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Dick Allen, whose most recent book of poetry is "Present Vanishing," Sarabande Books, 2008. Poem reprinted from "North Dakota Quarterly," Vol. 74, no. 3, Summer 2007, by permission of Dick Allen. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Poem - Ghosties

American Life in Poetry: Column 187

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I thought that we'd celebrate Halloween with an appropriate poem, and Iowa poet Dan Lechay's seems just right. The drifting veils of rhyme and meter disclose a ghost, or is it a ghost?





Ghost Villanelle

We never saw the ghost, though he was there--
we knew from the raindrops tapping on the eaves.
We never saw him, and we didn't care.

Each day, new sunshine tumbled through the air;
evenings, the moonlight rustled in dark leaves.
We never saw the ghost, though: he was there,

if ever, when the wind tousled our hair
and prickled goosebumps up and down thin sleeves;
we never saw him. And we didn't care

to step outside our room at night, or dare
click off the nightlight: call it fear of thieves.
We never saw the ghost, though he was there

in sunlit dustmotes drifting anywhere,
in light-and-shadow, such as the moon weaves.
We never saw him, though, and didn't care,

until at last we saw him everywhere.
We told nobody. Everyone believes
we never saw the ghost (if he was there),
we never saw him and we didn't care.

- Dan Lechay

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2003 by Dan Lechay. Reprinted from "The Quarry," Ohio University Press, 2003, by permission of Dan Lechay. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Poem - Daughter

Every child can be seen as a miracle, and here Minnesota poet James Lenfestey captures the beautiful mystery of a daughter.




Daughter

A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent,
holding earth and sky together with her shadow.
She sleeps upstairs like mystery in a story,
blowing leaves down the stairs, then cold air, then warm.
We who at sixty should know everything, know nothing.
We become dull and disoriented by uncertain weather.
We kneel, palms together, before this blossoming altar.

- James Lenfestey


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by James P. Lenfestey from his most recent book of poetry, "A Cartload of Scrolls," Holy Cow! Press, 2007. Reprinted by permission of the author. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Poem - Veterans

American Life in Poetry: Column 185

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

When I was a boy, there were still a few veterans of the Spanish American War, and more of The Great War, or World War I, and now all those have died and those who served in World War II are passing from us, too. Robert Hedin, a Minnesota poet, has written a fine poem about these people.


The Old Liberators

Of all the people in the mornings at the mall,
it's the old liberators I like best,
those veterans of the Bulge, Anzio, or Monte Cassino
I see lost in Automotive or back in Home Repair,
bored among the paints and power tools.
Or the really old ones, the ones who are going fast,
who keep dozing off in the little orchards
of shade under the distant skylights.
All around, from one bright rack to another,
their wives stride big as generals,
their handbags bulging like ripe fruit.
They are almost all gone now,
and with them they are taking the flak
and fire storms, the names of the old bombing runs.
Each day a little more of their memory goes out,
darkens the way a house darkens,
its rooms quietly filling with evening,
until nothing but the wind lifts the lace curtains,
the wind bearing through the empty rooms
the rich far off scent of gardens
where just now, this morning,
light is falling on the wild philodendrons.

- Robert Hedin

Photos: "World Wars" (South and West Walls, 3203 32nd St. Vernon, BC)
Mural artist: Michelle Loughery, 2001

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 1999 by Robert Hedin. Reprinted from "The Old Liberators: New and Selected Poems and Translations," Holy Cow! Press, 1999, by permission of Robert Hedin. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Poem - Work

American Life in Poetry: Column 184

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I hope it's not just a guy thing, a delight in the trappings of work. I love this poem by John Maloney, of Massachusetts, which gives us a close look behind the windshields of all those pickup trucks we see heading home from work.



After Work

They're heading home with their lights on, dust and wood glue,
yellow dome lights on their metallic long beds: 250s, 2500s--
as much overtime as you want, deadline, dotted line, dazed
through the last few hours, dried primer on their knuckles,
sawdust calf-high on their jeans, scraped boots, the rough
plumbing and electric in, way ahead of the game except for
the check, such a clutter of cans and iced-tea bottles, napkins,
coffee cups, paper plates on the front seat floor with cords
and saws, tired above the eyes, back of the beyond, thirsty.
There's a parade of them through the two-lane highways,
proudest on their way home, the first turn out of the jobsite,
the first song with the belt off, pure breath of being alone
for now, for now the insight of a full and answerable man.
No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles
and they know they can't describe it, the black and purple sky.

- John Maloney


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by John Maloney, whose most recent book of poetry is "Proposal," Zoland Books, 1999. Poem reprinted from AGNI online, 2/2007, by permission of John Maloney. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Updates

Well, I haven't been here in a while. I have a good reason - holidays, and then catching up! But that's all behind me now, and it's time to get back on the poetry bus and move on.

So, before we get to the main Friday course of "American Life in Poetry" here's an announcement - another poetry contest.

This one is for Twitter Poetry.

Don't know what Twitter Poetry is? It's an extremely short poem - 140 characters or less (that's characters, i.e. each letter, space and mark of punctuation counts as a character. Your word processing program probably counts them.)

Anyway, Utmost has a Twitter Poetry Contest happening. Find out all about it here.


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For Canadian Poets the current contest is for poems on the theme of "Where is God"

Deadline - October 31st.

Check it out!

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The latest "Poet's Classroom" column came online yesterday.

Read "Research: The Dietary Supplement Your Poems Can't Do Without".

Friday, September 05, 2008

Book review The Jewel of Gresham Green by Lawana Blackwell


Title: The Jewel of Gresham Green
Author: Lawana Blackwell
Publisher:
Bethany House (August 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0764205110
ISBN-13: 978-0764205118

In the Birmingham England of 1884 when a lecherous man starts eyeing one's four-year-old daughter, what’s a single mom to do but leave town? Jewel Libby’s parson refers her to his friend’s house in Gresham.

There, in the midst of the Hollis-Phelps clan, Jewel soon finds herself embroiled in conflict of another kind. In Lawana Blackwell’s The Jewel of Gresham Green we follow Jewel and members of the Hollis-Phelps family as they work through health and in-law challenges, advocate for a wealthy neighbor in the presence of a heartless and conniving heir, conquer self-defeating attitudes and, of course, find romance.

The plot follows the stories of many characters – stories that started in other books, I soon discovered (this is book four of the Gresham Chronicles). But though the plot has many threads, Blackwell manages to weave them together into a tale that is always captivating and contains just enough trouble to keep the reader off balance and wanting more.

Blackwell’s characterizations shine. She explores an array of characters in this book. Her portrayal – especially through life-like dialogue – of complex people that range from pretentious Londoners, to peasant farmers, to clergymen, to children is evidence of her range.

Blackwell’s storytelling style is brisk and efficient. She doesn’t over-explain and, given the large cast, at first I felt as lost as a new in-law at a family gathering – though by about a quarter way through I had my bearings.

She does occasionally season her mostly plain-speech narrative with bits of fancy. Note this passage where Julia muses on her daughter’s youth: “Grace had much still to learn, simply because twenty years was not long enough for the whole curriculum of human nature…” And here’s Aleda’s writerly metaphor: “Even so, the story stretched out before her like a road dipping over the horizon. Her pen was the tortoise on that road.”

Parenting is a theme that keeps coming up in The Jewel of Gresham Green. Blackwell addresses it in Jewel’s mothering of four-year-old Becky and again in Julia and Andrew’s parenting of their adult children. Faith is another theme that pervades the book. Julia, Andrew and Jewel flesh out their beliefs by praying, attending church and finding comfort and inspiration in the Bible. But this is by no means a sermon dressed up as fiction. Rather it’s an entertaining tale of textured life-like characters with whom we experience the ups and downs of family and community life as seen through a lens of faith.

If you’re looking to spend a few enjoyable hours with Maeve Binchy-like characters in a historical English setting as fascinating as Jan Karon’s Mitford, The Jewel of Gresham Green is your book.

Friday poem - What's in a name?

American Life in Poetry: Column 180

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

What's in a name? All of us have thought at one time or another about our names, perhaps asking why they were given to us, or finding meanings within them. Here Emmett Tenorio Melendez, an eleven-year-old poet from San Antonio, Texas, proudly presents us with his name and its meaning.


My name came from. . .

My name came from my great-great-great-grandfather.
He was an Indian from the Choctaw tribe.
His name was Dark Ant.
When he went to get a job out in a city
he changed it to Emmett.
And his whole name was Emmett Perez Tenorio.
And my name means: Ant; Strong; Carry twice
its size.

- Emmett Tenorio Melendez

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2000 by Emmett Tenorio Melendez. Reprinted from "Salting The Ocean: 100 Poems By Young Poets," Greenwillow Books, 2000, by permission of the editor. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Poet's Classroom series

Are you one of those people who has written off poetry as just too hard to understand? I hope my newest article in the Poet's Classroom series, "Accessible Poetry and Poets," will make you reconsider.

If you don't feel like reading the essay, go straight to the sidebar where I've assembled a real meal deal banquet of links (complete readings by Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, many great poems plus a short reading by Christian poet Jeanne Murray Walker)!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Poem - Tools and Work

American Life in Poetry: Column 179

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I've always loved shop talk, with its wonderful language of tools and techniques. This poem by D. Nurkse of Brooklyn, New York, is a perfect example. I especially like the use of the verb, lap, in line seven, because that's exactly the sound a four-inch wall brush makes.



Bushwick: Latex Flat
2001

Sadness of just-painted rooms.
We clean our tools
meticulously, as if currying horses:
the little nervous sash brush
to be combed and primped,
the fat old four-inchers
that lap up space
to be wrapped and groomed,
the ceiling rollers,
the little pencils
that cover nailheads
with oak gloss,
to be counted and packed:
camped on our dropsheets
we stare across gleaming floors
at the door and beyond it
the old city full of old rumors
of conspiracies, gunshots, market crashes:
with a little mallet
we tap our lids closed,
holding our breath, holding our lives
in suspension for a moment:
an extra drop will ruin everything.

- D. Nurkse

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by D. Nurkse, whose newest book of poetry "The Border Kingdom," is forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. Poem reprinted from "Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn," ed., Julia Spicher Kasdorf & Michael Tyrrell, New York University Press, 2007, by permission of D. Nurkse. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Poem - Instinct

American Life in Poetry: Column 178

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

We mammals are ferociously protective of our young, and we all know not to wander in between a sow bear and her cubs. Here Minnesota poet Gary Dop, without a moment's hesitation, throws himself into the water to save a frightened child.




Father, Child, Water

I lift your body to the boat
before you drown or choke or slip too far

beneath. I didn't think--just jumped, just did
what I did like the physics

that flung you in. My hands clutch under
year-old arms, between your life

jacket and your bobbing frame, pushing you,
like a fountain cherub, up and out.

I'm fooled by the warmth pulsing from
the gash on my thigh, sliced wide and clean

by an errant screw on the stern.
No pain. My legs kick out blood below.

My arms strain
against our deaths to hold you up

as I lift you, crying, reaching, to the boat.

- Gary Dop

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2008 by Gary Dop. Reprinted from "New Letters", Vol. 74, No. 3, Spring 2008, by permission of Gary Dop. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Poem - Zoo time

American Life in Poetry: Column 177

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Kristen Tracy is a poet from San Francisco who here captures a moment at a zoo. It's the falling rain, don't you think, that makes the experience of observing the animals seem so perfectly truthful and vivid?


Rain at the Zoo

A giraffe presented its head to me, tilting it
sideways, reaching out its long gray tongue.
I gave it my wheat cracker while small drops
of rain pounded us both. Lightning cracked open
the sky. Zebras zipped across the field.
It was springtime in Michigan. I watched
the giraffe shuffle itself backwards, toward
the herd, its bone- and rust-colored fur beading
with water. The entire mix of animals stood
away from the trees. A lone emu shook
its round body hard and squawked. It ran
along the fence line, jerking open its wings.
Perhaps it was trying to shake away the burden
of water or indulging an urge to fly. I can't know.
I have no idea what about their lives these animals
love or abhor. They are captured or born here for us,
and we come. It's true. This is my favorite field.

- Kristen Tracey


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) Kristen Tracy, whose most recent teen novel is "Crimes of the Sarahs," Simon & Schuster, 2008. Poem reprinted from AGNI online, 9/2007, by permission of Kristen Tracy. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Poem

Welcome to American Life in Poetry. I'm excited to be able to bring you a new poem every week via this column, along with a short introduction by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. (The photo is my contribution.)

Enjoy!

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American Life in Poetry: Column 176

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Hearts and flowers, that's how some people dismiss poetry, suggesting that's all there is to it, just a bunch of sappy poets weeping over love and beauty. Well, poetry is lots more than that. At times it's a means of honoring the simple things about us. To illustrate the care with which one poet observes a flower, here's Frank Steele, of Kentucky, paying such close attention to a sunflower that he almost gets inside it.



Sunflower

You're expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up. I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o'clocks
up there to the dream she keeps
lifting, where it's noon all day.

- Frank Steele

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2001 by Frank Steele. Reprinted from "Singing into That Fresh Light," co-authored with Peggy Steele, ed., Robert Bly, Blue Sofa Press, 2001, by permission of Frank Steele. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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Read previous columns here.

Come back next Friday for another installment of American Life in Poetry.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Latest news


Two nice things have come about for me in the poetry department lately:

1. My rhyming poem "Broken Things" won an Honorable Mention in the "Christian Publishers Poetry Prize."

AND

2. I now write a monthly poetry column (called Poet's Classroom) at Utmost Christian Writers. My first column, "Who'd Want to Read Your Poems?" was posted August 1st.

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Something for you: Novice Christian Poetry Contest.

~ Deadline for entries is August 31st.

~ Prizes range from $500 for first to $50 for Honorable Mentions. Twenty cash prizes will be awarded in all.

~ Complete rules and entry form linked here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Only 10 more days . . .


Hurry! Canadian poets who are Christian - you only have till July 31st to get your entries in to the "Flag" poem contest

Contest details are here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Calling Fraser Valley Poets

If you're a poet who lives in the B.C. Fraser Valley listen up!

You only have six more days to enter the MSA Poets Potpourri Society's "River of Words" Poetry contest.

Details:

Open to residents of the Fraser Valley, B.C.
(Maple Ridge to Aggasiz, Langley to Hope)

2 categories: under 18 and adults.

Entry Fee: $4 per poem for under 18-3 for $10
$5 per poem or 3-$12 for adults

Limit of three poems per person. Blind judging to take place.

Prizes: Under 18: $50/1st place, $35/2nd place, $20/3rd place,plus publication online and in a future Anthology.

Adult: $75/1st place, $50/2nd place, $25/3rd place, plus publication online and in a future Anthology.

Honourable mentions will also be published online and in a future anthology.
Contemporary poetry on any theme, any style, max 40 lines including stanza breaks.

CLOSING DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS: July 1/08

Mail submission to:
MSA PPS River of Words Poetry Contest
PO Box P. O. BOX 8000 #257 ABBOTSFORD, BC V2S 6H1(TBA)

Poems must be original and unpublished and should not have author's name on them; they will be photocopied for judges. Send a cover letter with your name, address, email and phone number. Specify your age category and the title(s) of your poems and the dollar amount enclosed.

Cheques or money orders only, made payable to the MSA PPS.

All rights revert back to author after publication.
email: shehag7@hotmail.com or call 604-820-4438 for more info

Winners announced by: September 1/08

Disclaimer: By entering this contest you declare this to be your original poetry and grant MSA PPS permission to publish it.

MSA PPS Members are not eligible to compete in this contest.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Wilderness Poetry Camp


Jan Wood, Utmost Christian Writer's International Christian Poet Laureate, is running a Wilderness Poetry Camp Experience August 12-15 at the Ness Creek site in the boreal forest of northern Saskatchewan.

From the brochure:

Workshops will concentrate on merging of sight and sound and moving image and sound into poetry. There will be opportunity to explore ideas and experience both visual art and music in an outdoor setting.


Register by June 30. Registration is limited to 15.

Pdf file with Information and registration form here.

...sounds intriguing - especially since a bluegrass festival is happening in the same area that same weekend.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New feature on Writer's Almanac daily

"The Writer's Almanac" has put a new feature on their daily emails. Each poet's name is now a link. If you click on it, you get links to their other poems used on "The Writer's Almanac." If you like the day's poem, you can read more by the same poet.

This morning's poem was by "Boarding House" by Ted Kooser.



Through the link I described, I have just come across Kooser's "Abandoned Farmhouse" which begins:

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

Read the rest...

This poem takes me back to abandoned Saskatchewan farmyards I've seen. For example, we visited my husband's childhood farm homesite some years ago ...








and found his old workboots.



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A visit to "The Writer's Almanac" website reveals that they've made other improvements like linking poems by title as well as the date they were posted. They also have a new search feature. Of course the daily morning reading (5 minutes) has been available from iTunes as a podcast for a while now, as well as listenable from the web site and the daily email.

To get "The Writer's Almanac" complete with a daily poem emailed to you every morning, subscribe here.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sound of silence

Do you hear it? Silence. No more music. When I checked the Sonific website this morning, after noticing my player hasn't been working in the last few days, I discovered that it is no more, due to music licensing issues. I'm sad. Explanation is here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poet Francis Thompson

The Kingdom of God

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air--
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!--
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places--
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estrang├Ęd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry--and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry--clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

Francis Thompson

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I heard this poem quoted recently by Ravi Zacharias in a podcast. The poem becomes even more moving when one knows a little about its author.

Francis Thompson was born in 1859 in England. He was sent, in his youth, to train to be a priest but because of his lazy ways he was sent home at 18 years.

His parents next sent him to medical school. There he failed his exams several times, and along the way became addicted to opium (laudanum).

He eventually went to London to realize his secret ambition of becoming a poet (the laudanum fit right in, according to some of the poets he had read). However he was soon destitute and living on the street. He still read the papers and wrote poetry, though, and would send it in soiled and wrinkled envelopes to local editors.

One such parcel of his poems came to Mr. Wilfred Meynell, editor of Merry England, a small Catholic paper. In time Mr. Meynell read Thompson's poems, and essays, liked them, and published them.

Thompson found the published pieces and got in touch with Meynell again. The editor and his wife took responsibility for Thompson after that, saw him through rehabilitation and looked after him. It was during the four years of his withdrawal he wrote most of his poetry. Sadly, he became permanently re-addicted to laudanum in 1889 and died from a combination of tuberculosis and laudanum poisoning in 1907.

This biography of his life
contains a paragraph explaining how his addiction affected the message of his poetry:

Although he lived a century ago, as Waldron argues, Francis Thompson's story is of contemporary relevance. In the past, many teachers hid the fact that Thompson was an addict from their students. The addiction is integral, however, to understanding both Thompson's life and his poetry. Had Thompson not believed that he had strayed so far from a loving God, he may well never have written a poem of such lyrical beauty and power as the "The Hound of Heaven."

"The Hound of Heaven" is Thompson's best known poem.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Weekend of the Gathering


This was the weekend of the Gathering of Christian Poets...and I missed it. The Gathering is sponsored by the Utmost Christian Writers Foundation. A bunch of poets get together in Edmonton for seminars, readings, meals and the big Utmost Christian Writers Poetry Contest results.

They'll be winding down right about now -- probably at some pizza joint ordering a round as a big happy gang... I was at one gathering, way back in 2003. What fun! Some day I will attend again.

Today is also the first International Christian Poets Day, and the day the new Utmost International Christian Poet Laureate will be (has been) officially inaugurated. Today is the official end of my time and the beginning of Jan Wood's two-year stint as Poet Laureate. Congratulations Jan!

Get to know a little about Jan and find links to some of her wonderful poems here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Happy Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month in Canada, as it is in the States. There are all manner of poetic celebrations going on; I'm not sure I'm taking part in any of them, though. But I have decided to celebrate this month in another way.

Robert at Poetic Asides has challenged poets everywhere to write a poem a day during this month. I am going to take up the challenge. I'll probably not be posting them all publicly - though I may put up a few. (We can also put them in the comment box at Poetic Asides and join in on the poetic fellowship!)

In April I will also post here a little more often than I have in the past.

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Don't know what to write about? Robert has promised a prompt for each day of the month. Check out today's prompt here.

Now, Violet, go write a poem!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

poemifying the missionary life

So the Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is a book of poems by D. S. Martin. They are based on letters his grandparents wrote home when they were missionaries in China from 1923 to 1951.

Sample poems are here and here.

My review of this excellent little book is here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Contest deadlines loom

If you're a Canadian Christian poet who plans to enter the current contest running at the Utmost Christian Writers Canadian site - get writing! The deadline is just three weeks away (January 31st, 2008).

The theme for the current contest is:
"Redeemed. Your winning poem will deal in some way with redemption. Your poem must have a spiritual message relating to redemption. As always, literary excellence is required of winners."


Ca$h prizes!

Rules

Entry form

Read previous winners here.


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For Christian poets from anywhere/everywhere - the annual Utmost Christian Poetry Contest entries are due February 28th (must be postmarked February 28th or before). No theme for this contest. Total prizes - a whopping $4000.00!

Rules

Winning poems from past contests linked here.