Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't Fit It In. Make It Fit.

Everyone who knows me knows that my biggest complaint has been finding the time to write my stories and poetry. Four kids, other work and deadlines always seem to come first. But the last few weeks, I’ve had a few interactions that finally helped me realize that time isn’t the problem.

I’m the problem.

First, there was this:
Me (whining): “I don’t have enough time to write my stuff. I manage to get the deadline stuff done, but only by constantly telling the kids to leave me alone I’m working.”
Writer Friend: My writing time happens on my schedule.
Me (thinking to myself): Why can’t I do that?

Then there was this:
Un-Named Family Member Who Is Not One of My Kids: “You finished work yet?”
Me: “I still have to do some writing for my story.”
UNFMWINOOMK: “Oh, so you’re done work then?”
Me: (thinking to myself): Seriously? Isn’t my writing work?

I overheard this...
One of my kids: “Mom still working?”
Another kid: “Nah, she’s just writing.”

Finally there was this:
One of My Kids (throwing a major guilt trip my way): “What’s more important to you... your writing or your children?”
Me: (Out loud, because the guilt trip & general disrespect finally pissed me off enough): “It’s not an either/or question! My work is AS IMPORTANT!”

Unless you have magic pants... 
It finally dawned on me that I’ve been treating my story writing like a favorite pair of blue jeans that didn’t fit any more. You love those jeans so much that you keep doing that Shimmy-Wiggle, Jump-Pull, Zipper-Ripper Yoga routine. Even if you finally manage to get those jeans on, by the time you’re done, you’re exhausted and uncomfortable.

Sooner or later, you realize it’s pointless. You either have to give up and get rid of the pants altogether, or change your routine to lose weight so you can fit in those jeans you love again.

I can’t buy a new family. But I can change how I respond to their attitude toward my writing. When they hassle me with repeated, “Are you done work yet?” My answer is a simple, “No.” I now have a schedule for my story writing, and I’m defending it just as I would if I were working on a deadline.

I’m no longer “just writing” any more.

I’m working. --WNG

Monday, July 1, 2013

We Can Be Heroes

I only started actively using Twitter a couple months ago... April 15th, to be exact. I had decided that morning to start Tweeting  links to the hastily-composed verse I was writing each day for NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month. Then that afternoon, the Boston Marathon was bombed, and I finally understood why everyone used Twitter to stay on top of breaking news.

Lots of heroes came out of that day. The people who were injured, the families who supported them, the first responders and medical professionals who put forth every effort to help them and all of the everyday people who stepped up any way they could.

As the weeks went on and that unreal week faded, I started using Twitter the way everyone else does: I sent out links to my blog. I was always pleasantly surprised when people I didn’t know followed me back. I couldn’t get over that complete strangers liked what I was putting out there. I went from thinking “Eh, maybe I’ll do this, but I don’t think anyone is going to really care about what I have to say” to “Yes! I can do this!”

And I followed people. I looked for people I admired – many my favorite writers: Judy Blume, Mike Birbiglia, Steve Martin, Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson and Armistead Maupin to name a few. For one reason or another, their work really stuck with me throughout my life. They’re just a few of the writers I always aspired to be. They made me say to myself, “I wish I could write like that.”

When you follow a famous person on Twitter, you don’t really expect them to follow back.

And then one did.

Weekend warriors & writers
The day before, I had arranged for my sons to meet an athlete named Chris Wilczewski. He is competing in “American Ninja Warrior,” which just started airing its new season on TV this week. My boys, ages 11 and 7, are ANW addicts and have been for the last three years. My older son is a walking “Sasukepedia” (the show originated in Japan as “Sasuke.”)My younger son keeps playing Parkour in the house... out of the house... on the house. I’m the “Mom Always Says DON’T PARKOUR IN THE HOUSE!” mom.

My younger son is literally climbing our walls

When I learned Chris -- who was a finalist in last year’s ANW competition -- also ran a parkour gym not far from our home, I made it my mission to find a way to afford summer camp there for both boys. This year, we managed it. And when we told them the big news –they would get to go to a Ninja Warrior summer camp for a whole week, and meet their “hero” Chris Wilczewski! -- it was like Christmas morning on their birthdays in DisneyWorld. Here’s a taste of how they reacted:

"Woof woof!"

Honestly, I thought they were being a little silly. My younger son is a natural athlete, so his enthusiasm makes something resembling sense. But my older son is on the autism spectrum and has a number of physical limitations that make athletics difficult. I couldn’t get why – of all the sports and TV shows in the world – this bizarrely difficult obstacle course full of hard-core athletes and free-running competitors  -- this had become his dream-come-true.

Then, the day after I took the boys to meet Chris and sign them up for camp, it was maybe a week after I had finished writing my last NaPoWriMo poem. I was doing my normal Sunday night writing assignments when a “bloop” noise blooped on my phone:

@ArmisteadMaupin is now following you on Twitter.

My brain exploded. Seriously? Really? Me? I had fallen in love with Maupin’s Tales of the City series so much that I went to San Francisco right after college hoping to land a job. I hoped to find the real-world locale for the fictitious Barbary Lane rooming house. I hoped my mood ring would turn blue, just like Mary Ann Singleton’s.

Even though I know better than to read too much into a simple Twitter follow, I couldn’t help but allow myself to consider the possibility that, for whatever reason, this writer I’ve admired my entire adult life decided in the second it takes to click “Follow” that he wouldn’t mind if my Tweets showed up on his newsfeed once in a while.

It was a small, silly thing. But I admit it. I went “Squee!” anyway. Or as my younger son put it, "Woof Woof!"

Find your own people
That same night, my older son, came up to me to say thank you – again. I finally asked him why it meant so much to him.

His words, word-for-word:  

“Because now I’ve been accepted as a Ninja Warrior and I know that I can overcome anything and realize my dreams.”

It was the “accepted” that got me. For the past three years, he had been the only person he knew (besides his younger brother) to love this weird “American Ninja Warrior” competition no one had ever heard of before. For his whole life, he had always been the quirky kid with a hard time controlling his behavior, who was slower than the other kids, not as strong as the other kids. But now, he’d met his hero. He’s met other people  who share his passion. He's seen first-hand how he can contribute. He knows he can design obstacle courses. He can provide intel to the athletes about courses and success rates on obstacles. He can coach and cheer on other competitors. He’s part of something now. He’d been accepted.
My older son giving Chris a bear hug
on the last day of his "Ninja" camp.

By hearing how my son finally felt “accepted,” I realized how surrounding yourself with the type of person – or writer -- you aspire to be can make all the difference. Your people – your role models, your heroes – are the people who encourage you when you lack confidence, who make you feel less alone when you’re struggling, who show you by the work that they produce how you can do it yourself.

I’ve had so many false starts writing my own stories over the years. Outright failures and frustrations. I'd worked as a writer all my life, but when it came to writing stories -- stories of the fictitious, fantastical kind -- I was lost. I had actually given up on the idea of ever writing fiction, even though that had been my dream since I was 8.

That was then. This is now.

The big difference between then and now is that I've sought out my own people– a community of writers. On Twitter, On Facebook. And my off-line, in-person friends. Without support from them, I never would have tried to write a poem a day for a month. I never would have felt brave enough to put my writing prompts out there to the world. And I might never have had that tiny interaction with one of my “heroes.” 

Because of all that, I've been thinking to myself that If I can write poems everyday for a month... if other people are enjoying what I write... and if Armistead freakin’ Maupin is going to follow me on Twitter, then maybe, I really can write my story. 

And so I am. For the last month now. I started my novel. And I know this time I will finish it.

Dramatic tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing always bring out the heroes. Usually, when we go through the sad routine of telling stories in the aftermath, we learn that the heroes were the people who were already role models.

The people who run into danger to apply a tourniquet to a bomb victim, or who donate blood to people they don’t know, who organize fundraisers just because they want to help -- these the same type of people who, on a typical day would give a non-athletic kid a chance to be part of a sport he loves; who encourage friends and strangers to write the story they always wanted to tell; or they might be “famous,” people who also take the time to acknowledge their fans in some small way. 

Writing work is mostly work done alone. But it doesn't have to be lonely. Find  your people. Keep them close. Help others when you can. Practice kindness. Offer encouragement and acceptance of others who want to be like you.

If we do that, we can all be heroes to someone. -- WNG

PS: Life is just better when David Bowie is on your soundtrack.

# # #

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ways to Capture Creative Ideas On-The-Go

It always happens. You get The Great Big Idea – or even just a snibblet of The Great Big Idea. But it pops into your head while you’re in the shower. Or while the kids are throwing jelly sandwiches at the ceiling. Or while you’re dodging tractor trailers driving 70 mph down the turnpike to get to work on time. In short, The Great Big Ideas almost never come when it’s convenient to write them down. Lots of Great Big Ideas get lost that way.
I have a very good reason for commandeering this toy
from my kids when I'm in the shower.

I work from home while raising four kids. Before I did that, I did the extremely long highway drives to
and from work.  Every writer knows to keep a pen and notepad handy at all times. But ideas don’t always come when it’spractical to put pen to paper.

So these are some strategies I have used over the years to try to hold on to those great ideas I get when my mind is wandering to great things to write about, but life – or dish-soaked hands – are getting in the way of letting me write them down.  A lot of my new favorite tools center around my iPhone, which I just got a few months ago (Hello, my name is Julie and I’m a late-adopter.) But when I can’t find the traditional paper & pen/pencil, I’ve used everything from children’s toys to music earworms to remember my ideas for later. So here are some things I do to hold on to my creative ideas while on-the-go:

1) - Camera phone
This is my new best friend. My Camera Roll is part-photo album, part writer’s notebook. When I’m on Twitter, if I see a phrase that sparks an idea, I take a screenshot so I can go back later and remind myself of what I wanted to write. A couple of times, I’ve written whole poems just based snibs of phrases I found on my Twitter feed. When I’m out walking, if I see something cool that I think might make a good poem, that’s a snapshot for later. Having the photo right in front of me while writing brings back way more of the original inspiration, and helps write specific details of what I had in mind.

2) - Phone Notes/Recorded Notes
I don’t know about Android phones, but my iPhone came pre-installed with a little yellow Notepad app. When I can’t find my pen and paper, I go in and bang out the idea in the touchscreen for later. (Cursing Autocorrect a lot in the process.) I have a ton of notes in there. I’m not big on voice recordings, but if that works for you, speak your piece into your phone's Voice Memos app so you don’t forget for later. I’m sure there are other Apps out there you can download (if you know of any, let us know in Comments) but the pre-installed iPhone apps have been working for me. Love 'em.

3) - Magna-Doodles!!
If you have never heard of this toy, it is The! Best! Toy! In! The! World! – For Writers! It has a large plastic, water resistant writing surface and a magnetic pen. It’s portable. And the reason it’s great for writers is because you can keep it in the bathroom! Or next to the kitchen sink. It doesn’t get soggy like paper. And there are no electronic components to get wet! So if you have a brilliant thought with a head full of suds, just grab the Magna-Doodle, jot down your notes, and get back to enjoying your shower. They’re also portable, come in different sizes. And they’re fairly cheap, so you can buy several, and keep one in the car for you and still have another your kids can play with. Just make sure you transfer your notes onto something more permanent before your kids come along and erase it.

4) - Earworms
If you come up with a great idea... and have no way of recording it, this is one of those rare, rare times you’ll be glad for earworms – those annoyingly-memorable songs that get stuck in your head. Mine is “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” I don’t really like the song. I just wrote down the name and now, dammit! – I’m going to have Ricky Martin in my head for the rest of the day now, no matter what I do. So, when you’re stuck, sing your Great Idea to the tune of an earworm until you can get it written down. It will be annoying, but isn’t it worth having a little “upside-inside-out” in your head for a day (or whatever song is the earwormiest song for you) if it’s for the worthy cause of keeping hold of your creative idea?

If you have tactics for holding onto your creative ideas when you’re on the go, I’d love to hear them. Share in the comments. Or drop an email. -- WNG

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

10 Things You Can Do With Your 3-5 Line Prompts

First of all... if you’ve done any of the 3-5 line prompts the last few weeks – awesome! Thank you! If you’ve done most or all of the 3-5 line prompts the last few weeks – Woo-Hoo! Very Cool! And if you haven’t done any of them... You can start any time. Start now, if you can. No pressure.

And for everyone: I will be putting up a page of all the writing prompts soon. That’s not a nebulous “soon.” That’s a “by the end of the week” soon. Meanwhile, it’s Shameless Plug Time: If you’d like a prompt 3-5 days a week, follow me on Twitter at @Julie_WrdNrdGrl or on my WordNerdGirl Facebookpage. [End shameless plug here]

I’ve been busybusybusy here in WordNerdGirl land. My busy involves a lot of furniture moving and family angst. But even when you’re normal-busy, it’s hard to find time to write. The whole point of “3-5 lines” is to encourage you (and me) to write every day – no matter where your furniture is, or what angst your family is putting you through that day. No pressure to meet a huge word count or even fill a whole page – a Post-It note will do. Just get in the habit of writing.

Below are some suggestions for what you could do next with your 3-5 lines. The next time you get a prompt, try writing with these ideas in mind... or take one of your old prompts and see if you can mold it into one of these:

1. A Character sketch: Write an outline of a single character who will appear in a story. Male or female? Name? Hair color? Eye color? Is he always trustworthy? Is she always angry? What does her nose look like? What does she smell like? What’s the first thing she notices when she walks in a room? If your 3-5 line prompt is about a person, use very specific details when describing that person... it may seem unimportant early on, but as you’re writing, those details become something you can call back on later.

2. Japanese poetry:
     Haikus and Senryus are essentially the same form; you can read about what makes them different here. They're simple and only 3 lines long:
1st line: 5 syllables
2nd line 7 syllables
3rd Line: 5 syllables

   Sijos are a form I only just learned about  now while writing up this blog post – so we’ve all learned something today! According to the ShotglassJournal, an online journal of short poetry: “The Sijo is a Korean short poetry form... Three lines of 14-16 syllables totaling 44-46 syllables.” It also follows a narrative format that sounds similar to a traditional sonnet. You can read their full Sijo definition here. (Their full glossary of poetry short-forms is fantastic. Can't wait to explore the site.)

3. Tear what you wrote into strips and use it to stuff a fortune cookie. Or use them to write a Frank O’Hara-esque fortune cookie poem. (Credit to for making this one of their writing prompts last month.)

4. Use very specific wording to describe what is going on in your 3-5 lines. If you’re describing a chair, go to town describing the type of chair, how much it weighed, what it’s made of, how it makes a person feel sitting in it, to stand on it, etc. If something is happening in your scene, write your prompt so the action is specific. Have a thesaurus party to help you find the right words. There’s a difference between paper that ripped and paper that shredded.

5. Write a classic news lede: Make sure your 3-5 lines tell Who, What, When, Where, Why and How, and you’ll have a complete story in one paragraph. Details can be fleshed out as you continue writing.

6. If you really hate what you wrote, rip up each word, throw the words in a bowl and pull each out to form new sentences on a table. It’s like magnetic poetry, only with a little more of a mess.

7. Flash fiction: This is something I’ve tried in the past with not much success. But I hope to take another crack at very soon here on the blog. If you’re not familiar with it, flash fiction is, essentially, extreeeemely compressed, super-short fiction. It’s challenging to write, and read, because the length– anywhere from 300 to 1,000 words (1,000 is considered a long flash story by a lot of flash fans, from what I understand; I’m not claiming a lot of expertise here.) – forces basic story elements, like plot, character, resolution, etc. to only be suggested or not dealt with at all. For more about flash fiction, check out and Flash Fiction Online.

8. Write a Cinquain: A simple 5-line unrhymed poem:
                1st  line: 2 syllables
                2nd line: 4 syllables
                3rd line: 6 syllables
                4th line: 8 syllables
                5th line: 2 syllables

9. A Pi-Archimedes Poem: Here's form I’ve never heard of before, but it sounds so nerdy, I can’t wait to try it. According to Shotglass Journal: it is: “A 6-line poem based on pi=3.14286. Each line represents the number of words used from the pi number."

10. Write your Happy Ending. Or your Dreadfully Haunting Ending. But use your 3-5 lines to write The End first. Sometimes, if you know the ending, it’s easier figuring out how you want to get there.

Hope that’s enough to get your 3-5 lines multiplying... maybe by pi. (Mmmmm... pie... now I’m hungry.) Now that my family angst has been reduced to our normally-abnormal levels and most of our furniture is in place – except for the bookshelves (of all the furnishing that could not fit, why did it have to be the bookshelves??? Oh, my poor homeless books!) I have some poems I’ve written offline that I hope to post this week. I also have some more writing ideas & thoughts to share. 

And of course, if  anyone reading this has questions or feedback, or topics you'd like to see addressed here, please post in comments, or email. I’d love to hear from you. -- WNG

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

No Pressure, in 3-5: Writing Prompts for Very Busy People

Boy, do I hope this works. Poetry Month just ended last week. I honestly thought I would flame out after week one. Never thought would feel so driven to crank out a poem a day. And I never expected that when it was over, others would be asking me for help, to help keep our creative momentum going. So I came up with an idea. I have no idea if it will work or not. I dreamed this up on Friday. I did a little research over the weekend to see if anyone else is doing it. Best that I can tell, they’re not. So here’s the idea...

The biggest complaint writers have is “I don’t have time to write.” I write for a living and I don’t have time to write. Not the creative stuff. The fiction-y, poet-y, WordNerd-y mess-around-with-the-dictionary fun stuff. (Yes, my idea of a good time is reading the dictionary. I have issues.) Anyway, last month was the first creative writing I have done in a very, very long time.

So here’s my goofball way of making sure the fun writing happens more often...

No Pressure Prompts, in 3-5.


The 3-5... that’s the number of words, lines or phrases  I’ll ask you to write. It's a minimum. It can be a paragraph. It can be a poem. Whatever. No pressure. Write 3-5. It's the length of a Twitter post. You write those. Of a Facebook update. You write those. Of a Post-It note. You wrote those too. It's something you can jot down on a notepad and shove in your pocket if that's all you have time to  write. If you're lucky (and the boss isn't looking, or the kids are playing quietly... write more! Please! By all means.) 

The 3-5 is a minimum amount of creativity. No pressure. Off the top of your head. Improv. First thing that the prompt brings to mind. The first thing that makes you smile. It's more of a creativity exercise than a writing exercise. It's not about writing down the Most Genius Piece of Literature You Ever Wrote. It's about sparking the playtime on the page that the prompt provides... 

But that's just the first piece of it...

Pen It, Post It, or Publish It. Take that any way you would like it to mean... But speaking as the World's Greatest Coward when it comes to sharing stuff I've written  just off the top of my head, I've discovered that this will work best if you share what you wrote. If you'd rather write it in your notebook and keep it there, that's fine. Again, No Pressure. But feedback is how we learn. It's how we have fun and grow. If your writing prompt made you smile -- it might make someone else smile too. So I'll (gently) push you to post it -- on Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog, or just email it to a friend.

The point is for these prompts to give you a spark. Something to use. To write, every day. Even when you have no ideas. Or time. Very short. Very simple. And something that can be built upon. These 3-5 lines... you want to save them. Use them, build on them. My hope is that after doing this for a few weeks, we can start prompting on ways to take what you've already created and turn it into  Something More... if you haven't started doing that yourself already.

So that's the deal.

3-5 times a week, I'll send out writing prompts that require no more than 3-5 lines. Writing that can be done when you maybe only have 3-5 minutes. No pressure to make it more than that. (But if the spirit moves you and you want to write more -- go for it!) 

I'm making this up as I go, right along with you. I welcome ideas. Feedback. Prompt suggestions. This might not work out. But what do you say we give it a try?  -- WNG

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Raving King

NaPoWriMo, Day 30, Last Day

The Raving King

Once  upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over words I was sentenced to pen away in my wordy store,
When a-nodding off and nearly napping, suddenly there came a-blasting,
A semi-auto gun, a-banging, blowing away my chamber door.
"'Tis that bastard!," I exclaimed, "Blowing away my door again
 It’s Stephen King – he’s coming back for more!"

Ah, distinctly I remember -- it was in the froze’d December,
In kindling, glowing dying embers, my door lay splintered on my chamber’s floor.
Eagerly I wished for 'morrow; the man's bat-shit crazy, a la Jack Bauer,
‘Twas time for me to ghostwrite for him once more. Yes, here's the secret I had foresworn:
‘Tis from my word King’s horror empire's  truly born,
King left me nameless, penniless for evermore.

To be certain, I was King’s ghost, covered in a purple curtain
No thrill. Once, it paid my bills, but my fantastic terrors had been long ignored
‘Cause again, at my beating heart, King was aiming
His Smith and Wesson; my head was screaming – this scare routine had made me his writing whore.
Stephen King again breaking down my chamber door
Demanding gunpoint bestsellers, and giving nothing more.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
 "Sir, I’m mad. Nay – pissed. I do implore;
 The fact remains that I was napping, and you keep coming here and blasting
For decades I have been tapping out your lore.
But that’s scarcely been enough for you – always you want more!
You’re a true King of Darkness, I say! And nothing more!”

Deep into King’s darkness, I’ve long been peering; I stood there wondering and fearing,
A ghostwriter doubting dreams no mortal dared dream before;
But King’s silence was unbroken, and in the darkness –typical! -- he gave no token,
Until finally, two words King whispered I’d heard before: “Write more.”
And angered, this I whispered back my words, "No more!"
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
I spoke again my passion somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "Here it is -- there is something in my contract;
Let me see, then, where’sit-at – let us this mystery legal language go explore--
Sit, be still a moment and this mystery explore;--
And put the gun down – please, no need for any war!"

Here he slung his gun and with grumbling mutter
In stepped Stephen King, the stately King of gore.
 Not the least deference I gave, though an instant stopped and stayed:
With the mien of a feudal lord, King walked across the remains of my door--
Swept upon the dust of the remains of my chamber door--
Upon my favorite velvet chair King sat, and nothing more.

Then this Dirty Bird beguiled my sad Misery into near-giggling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the face he wore,
"My 'Tom Gordon' earnings were a-shaven" I said, "Surely you are not so craven,
 Ghastly grim and ancient, raving and blasting down my door.
Tell me! Why has my name been cut down by your lawnmower?"
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

Much I marvelled his ungainly foulness. Of course, plainly,
His answer – like his word -- had little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For (between you and me) we cannot help but to agree, that no other human be
Ever yet as blessed as me, to be the true wordsmith behind my master’s horror.
This beast cujoled upon my due credit and my payment due once more
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

But the Raving King, sitting like Almighty Unholy, Stephen King, he spoke only 

Those two words, as if his soul in those words he did outpour.

Nothing farther did he utter. Then like Randall Flagg, he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Like shining ghosts who came to write before--
In a moment you will leave me, and with you, Carry my hopes, as they have flown before."
Then the King said "Write more."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what you utter is only stock and store
I’m caught unhappy. With you as my master, you've left me an unmerciful disaster
Writing fast and following after under the doom your contract bore--
 The dirges of my Hope is my melancholy burden worn
Never paid – never credited.  Nevermore!'"

But the Raving King was still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of King Bird, and busted door;
Then, pouring over contract wording, I betook to a recurring --
Mr. Ominous Fancy Pants has put me through this before
I knew what this grim, ungainly, ghastly, green and ominous mile of yore
Was meant in his croaking "Write more."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To King’s foul and fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
 On my cushion's velvet lining that the Langolier gloated o'er,
On my velvet violet lining that the Langolier gloated o'er,
He pressed again, ah, write more!

Then, I thought, the air grew denser, his cheap cologne could have used a censor.
He worked his angle with the feint of fallen angels whose feet had fouled my once-good floor!
"Wretch," I cried, "Why won’t you lend me – by all the angels up above me—
 Respite--respite! Sign my check! Just give me one bank deposits. Man, I’m poor!
I drink! I drink! To forget that you forget all the work that I have poured! To forget I could have been so much more.
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

"Dammit!" said I, "thing of evil!—Dammit still, if dirty bird or devil!--
Tempter, when I tossed my lot onto your shores,
I was desolate, yet undaunted, of the crap contract I was handed --
But in my home, for years haunted --tell me truly, I implore--
Is there—my name in ANY acknowledgements?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

"Stephen King!" said I, "thing of evil—King , if dirty bird or devil!
By the Heaven that bends above us--by the God we both adore--
Tell this soul with shallow pockets and anonymous book jackets
If I will e’er grasp a bound hardback whom the angels named me for --
Clasp a rare and radiant hardback whom the angels have royalties for."
 Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

"Be that word our sign of parting, fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get back into your Plymouth Fury and bother me no more!
Belch black plume exhaust a token of the lies your soul has spoken!
Leave my obscurity unbroken!—And also Quit Busting Down My Goddamned Door!
Take my words from out of my heart -- then haul thy sorry ass and GET OUT MY DOOR!"
Quoth the Raving King, "Write more."

And Stephen King -- never splitting -- still is sitting, still is sitting
Amidst the dust on my velvet lounger, after gunning down my chamber's door;
His eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light over him is streaming his Randall shadows on my floor;
And my soul, ne’er out of King’s shadow as I lay typing on my cold floor
I am for King still heavy lifting – forever more!
Forever more!

© Julie Bartha-Vasquez, 2013
(But we all know most of the credit – and lots of apologies -- goes to Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King.)

If you've never read King's memoir
"On Writing," go read it.
Notes on the Poem:
It is 2:10 a.m. on May 1st, which means NaPoWriMo is officially over. I banged this whole thing out just today. The idea didn’t come together until very late today. The lines are off. There are probably typos, even though I did proof it. It still needs work. I’m just too damn exhausted to explain all the hows and whys I did what I did. Here are just the most important things to know:

I took Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven" and retold the story. In my story, "The Raving King" is Stephen King. He is holding the narrator as a contractual hostage as his ghostwriter. The narrator is supposed to be the real genius behind the success of Stephen King. It's meant to be silly and absurd.

No, the narrator is not "me." I think I was about 3-years-old when King published his first breakout hit, "Carrie." (See above, silly & absurd.) But being a working writer, it's very easy to get stuck in an "abusive relationship" situation. We've all been there at one time or another. So in that sense -- can I get a little credit? Can you at least get the check out to me? Please? -- that might be a little bit of me... and many, many writer friends of mine.

Yes, I am a fan of Stephen King. A big one, actually, both of his stories and as a writer. And his wife Tabitha King wrote one of my  favorite novels "One on One." I didn’t realize she was Stephen King’s wife when I started reading  it. But that doesn’t matter. It’s a great book. And I'm bummed no one seems to be selling it. The characters were quite vivid and stuck with me years later. I don't even like basketball. (It's about two high school basketball players who fall in love, but it's so much more than that.) I'm getting way off track. If  you can find a copy, go read it. Seriously.

Yes, I know it's a crow
and not a raven. 
Anyway, back to my absurd poem. “Stephen King” in this poem is a character – kind of like "Wil Wheaton" on "The Big Bang Theory." You know that the real-life Wil Wheaton is not a huge dick in real life. Based on his Twitter feed and other things I've read, real-world Wil Wheaton is probably an okay guy. But that's my basic premise. Real-world Stephen King -- from what I do know, having never met the man -- is a good, decent guy. But my character, "Stephen King" is an asshole who holds struggling writers hostage in a chamber with a crappy ghostwriting contract and a gun. He never  acknowledges the writer's work. And he doesn't even pay enough to make it worth while. But he has some evil power over them that makes them "Write More."

Actually, Stephen King was on my short list of Famous People I Still Think Would Be Worth Meeting Some Day, but after writing this, I doubt that’s ever going to happen.

The premise of Stephen King holding a gun to a writer’s head came from my friend Noreen – check out her blog at Roderama. She’s also the one who got me doing this crazy poetry stuff in the first place.

As for everything else – another time. I am sad NaPoWriMo is over, but I hope this was actually the start of more writing, not the end of it. Must sleep now. More tomorrow. I mean... later today. -- WNG

And now that I've had 2-1/2 hours of sleep and three gallons of coffee...

First, FYI: I just did one more pass-through of the poem since I first published it last night to fix up some major things and take advantage of opportunities I missed. Probably should have waited until morning to post. After this, I will leave it alone for a while.

To write it, once I settled on "The Raven," (Poe + Stephen King was as perfect as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich... and made my job easier!) I kept a list of "-ore" rhymes handy. I also tried to drop in some references to Stephen King's more famous stories -- some are obvious... some might not be. I didn't want to force it. But I wanted to pay tribute somehow, since, you know, I was making Stephen King out to be a giant asshole. Which I know he isn't. (I'm envisioning legions of "Children of the Corn"-style King-worshippers amassing outside my door to sacrifice me for my blasphemy.)

My overall goal was to tell the absurd, silly story I wanted to tell, while retaining as much of  Poe's original poem -- his language, structure, rhyme scheme and spirit -- as possible. It was tricky, and for only having a few hours to do it, probably not 100% successful as a poem. But man, it was fun. And that, of course, was the whole point of this whole month. -- WNG

Monday, April 29, 2013

Petabyte Latin

NaPoWriMo, Day 29

Petabyte Latin

I never learned
the Latin-speak
All of it seems, well
-- hopelessly Greek

So risking red face
and bad grammatical decorum
I bold-declare at the world:
Amo verborum

© Julie Bartha-Vasquez, 2013

All the Latin I've learned in life
I learned from Google Translate
Photo: Julie Bartha-Vasquez
Notes on the Poem:
The writing prompt today was to use foreign language phrases in your poem. To be honest, the prompt
itself didn't really light a spark under me today. I had other ideas I was chewing. But the day got away from me with work and kids and purple glitter on the carpet. But then a  friend's blog post about the awesomeness of knowing Latin got me thinking about how I wished I'd had the chance to take a basic Latin class at some point in life. So now, late at night, I'm falling back on my old standbys -- Google, Wikipedia and a basic rhyme scheme -- to throw together something fun and silly.
Tomorrow is the last NaPoWriMo Day. But I am also thinking about ways of keeping the creative mojo  going. I honestly didn't expect that 1)- I'd be able to keep up with this for the whole month, 2)- that I would want to do this every day for a month and that 3)- other people would be wanting to do it with me. Awesome experience all around. It's been fun... hoping we can keep it going. -- WNG