Sunday, August 29, 2021

Writers' Pantry #85: Things to remember if you're not rich and famous yet

From an essay by Karen Lord; this excerpt shared on facebook by one of my writer friends.


Hello again, dear wordsmiths. I have a couple of writer friends who are feeling downhearted because their books have not achieved much in the way of worldly success – though they are loved very much by the readers they do have. I think there are plenty more of us who have felt this way, at least sometimes.

At 81, I am becoming aware of the ephemeral nature of, well, most aspects of human life; and I'm reaching the conclusion that the impact we make on the few, in the present moment, matters too – and matters enough.

After all, only Mary Oliver could be Mary Oliver. It's good that she reached many! Perhaps the Universe gets it right and we all reach the souls who need our words, and will be touched by them. Is any one soul – or any 100 – less important than all others?

I think of the years when I offered psychic readings in the Sunday markets. I live in a small country town, not a big city. I was often astounded at how people from all over the world found their way to my low-key little market stall – people who needed not just a reader, but me specifically, with my particular life experiences and any personal wisdom I'd acquired – and needed that just as much as the psychic insights I also received for them.

I didn't get rich or famous at that, either, though many times people have told me, even years later, how right I got it and how much I helped them. Most of those people might be considered unimportant, in that they weren't celebrities or in positions of power in the world. But they were people in need, and I am no less thrilled and humbled than if they'd been super-stars. Such considerations become irrelevant when you can reach someone on a deep level and affect them for the good.

I like to think we can do that with our writing too, whether it drastically changes someone's whole point of view (not impossible!) or, conversely, delights them with fellow-feeling ... or simply causes them to stop a moment and notice the beauty of a flower.

So I thought I'd treat you to what other writers – including some we might consider very successful – have had to say about all this.

Robert Lee Brewer, for instance (quoted on our Rallentanda's blog) reminds us: Good poetry could be dismissed by a million readers but touch one person deeply.

This implies some interesting ideas about 'good poetry' – that not everyone (possibly not many) may be able to appreciate it, and that its goodness could reside in its ability to 'touch deeply' the few discerning readers. Is that a bit exclusivist? Perhaps not, when we consider the many thousands who think Hallmark greeting cards are lovely poetry. In any case (as I have said before) wasn't that what we all wanted when we started out – to touch even one person very deeply? We can't always know who we touch, let alone how many, but if you feel unappreciated by the masses, remember that that's not what it's all about.

I looked for and couldn't find a Fay Weldon quote where she says (something to the effect that) the only good reason to write is for the love of it – because we are very unlikely to make money at it, so if we do it for that reason, we're likely to end up very disappointed. If I haven't got that exactly right, it's close. I love it because it reminds me firmly of my real reason for writing, which is basically that I can't not do it. If I go more than a few days without, I start to get cranky.

'How do you do it?' asked a dear friend who is an academic. 'How can you bear to do all that writing?'

'Um, I guess the thing is, you're not a born writer,' I said, 'Or you wouldn't ask.'

She loves her work, and she writes very well, but she experiences the writing side of things as a terrible chore, something she struggles with. Well of course, we struggle too, often enough, don't we? But not in a way that makes us want to stop writing altogether, even if we decide to abandon a particular project.

I did find this Fay Weldon quote:    
Sound waves do not die out. They travel forever and forever. All our sentences are immortal. Our useless bleatings circle the universe for all eternity.        

Irreverent woman, Fay! But think about it. If what she says here is true, maybe we haven't 'failed'.

Oh, and if you should happen to produce a great classic of literature, even posthumously, you too may  be ruthlessly lampooned by later generations:


You can be a little bit famous right here and now, by linking to your blog to share with us one of your poems or prose pieces (prose 369 words max, please). For our Writers' Pantry today, and every Sunday, you can share any of your work, old or new. The prompt stays open for a week. Don't forget to read each other! And encouraging comments are always appreciated.

So are any remarks you care to make in the comments to this post, whether about being rich and famous (or not), letting us know how you're going, or just to say G'day. Oh all right, Hi. (Buenos dias, Ni hao, Goedendag, How do?.... )

Next Wednesday 

Magaly would like us to write poetry or prose inspired by the following Jim Rohn quote: Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live in. Feel free to use the phrase literally or figuratively.

And finally, guess what?

We've just become a little more famous as a community! A new website, BlogOverview, has just added us to their top 10 poetry blogs, at this link. Their Editor, Karen Gillies, told me: 'We've put a lot of work into ensuring that the blogs are not just those ranked highest by Google, but rather a diverse list of blogs with meaningful and personable content in relation to the subject matter.' Wow, what a compliment!

As we are storytellers as well as poets, they will also be adding us in the Writing category. And they warmly invite us all to use the site as a resource for finding other great blogs in our personal areas of interest.


Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. (Older material may be out of copyright).

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Weekly Scribblings #84: The Last Time

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! For this week’s prompt, I’d like you to play around with the phrase, “the last time.” You are free to interpret the phrase in any way you’d like, but you must use the words somewhere in your piece.

I am open to poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction. New-ish (30 days old or younger) or substantially reworked pieces are welcome (and if possible, share the evolution of re-worked pieces by providing a link to it in your post). If you decide to dance with prose, please keep your entries to 369 words or fewer. Thanks!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Writers’ Pantry #84: Let’s Read Up a Storm

Greetings, poets and storytellers. I hope you are having a very good day. If you are in the East Coast of the USA, I also hope that you and yours aren’t affected by Hurricane Henri. My bit of the world is supposed to get rain and a lot of wind (which might involve loss of power and such), but those closer to the coast might have to deal with floods.   

But enough about the weather, let’s open the Pantry and share our words… for words, on a rainy day, can be the best kind of magic. Please add your poetry or prose to Mr. Linky. We welcome contributions that are new or old, fiction or nonfiction, short or longish (prose pieces should be 369 words or fewer). One link per participant. This prompt shall stay open for a week. Visit other writers and let them know what their words do for your heart.

- next Wednesday, Rommy would like us to shape our words around the phrase, “the last time”. We are free to interpret what that phrase says to us, but we must use those words somewhere in our piece.

the calm before the storm…

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Weekly Scribblings #83: Pay Attention

Offline, one of the writers’ groups I belong to is the LitChix – a small group of women who are basically poets but have been known to scribble some prose too.

At our latest meeting we got talking about Mary Oliver. It turned out that one of the LitChix had never encountered any of Oliver’s poetry. The others hastened to find examples on our devices, to recite to her. Of course it only took one poem for her to realise she could no longer live without reading every Mary Oliver poem she could find!

Meanwhile I’d submitted a piece for workshopping which was descriptive of nature – a piece which I thought had some possibilities yet was in the end, as it stood, a big ‘so what?’ My friends agreed with my assessment on both counts.

After we’d delved into Oliver for a while, one of the others asked me,

‘What would you say is the difference between your poem and Mary Oliver’s poetry?’

‘Well,’ I began, ‘my piece was written from memory, a  memory of something which took place a long time ago. Her poems stem from the immediate moment.’

One of the others pointed out that, whereas mine described a whole landscape, Oliver tends to concentrate on one particular piece of nature – such as that grasshopper she describes so exactly and uniquely in the poem, The Summer Day (from House of Light, 1990). 

So it became clear to us that what Oliver does is focus. Very closely, very narrowly.

She tells us so, quite clearly, when she says (as our Magaly recently quoted to us):

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

(from Sometimes, published in her book Red Bird, 2008)

She also tends to come to some striking conclusions, which grow out of that specific focus – such as the lines just quoted.

We decided to try and emulate that approach – realising with some chagrin how seldom we really, really look at things, paying attention to every detail. Surely that is what writers do? You'd think. Yet we all seemed to have fallen into a habit of giving only hasty and shallow attention to the world around us, and without even noticing we'd done so. Shocking!

One of us had brought the hostess a sunflower. It stood on her table as we worked, in a graceful big jug of water. Our exercise was to focus closely on it, and write about it with that focus.


The results were fascinating. We came up with very different poems, reflecting our different selves and world views (for instance, I anthropomorphised like mad – and indeed, I do regard all living things as highly sentient) but what they had in common was detail and originality. They’re not very Mary Oliver-ish – but then, we weren’t seeking to be influenced by her words or style but her method.

I invite you to choose one object in nature, examine it closely, letting it inspire in you a sense of wonder, and then write your new poem or prose piece about it (prose to be 369 words maximum).

The point of our Weekly Scribblings is for you to be inspired to write something fresh and new – but if there's something very recent (within the last month by calendar date) that really fits the prompt, we'll accept that. Ditto for older pieces extensively rewritten (if possible, link to the original). Though in this case, as the exercise starts with looking at something closely in the immediate moment, brand-new is obviously the most fitting response of all.


Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. (Older material may be out of copyright). The Sunflower photo is © Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2021.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Writers' Pantry #83: It's Spooky Time Somewhere

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! Summer is winding down in the Philly ‘burbs and I have more than one friend looking forward to the start of spooky/ pumpkin spice season. My tea ceremony practice has me more conscious of the beauty in each season, though I do prefer warm to cold. In Japan, spooky season is NOW. LOL, I like bringing out some of my yokai (a.k.a. mysterious and often creepy creatures) related items for tea. My teacher even has indulged me at times by finding yokai related sweets.

For our next Weekly Scribblings, Rosemary would like to invite you to choose one object in nature, examine it closely, letting it inspire in you a sense of wonder, and then write your new poem or prose piece about it (prose to be 369 words maximum).

Now it's on to the pantry. I'm taking poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction, old and new pieces. Be sure to keep your prose to 369 words or fewer and one entry per person, please and thank you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Weekly Scribblings #82: “War is over! If you want it.”

Greetings, my dear poets and storytellers. I hope all is well with you, or as well as it can be. Around these parts, many of us are worried about children going back to school in person in the time of COVID (especially with the Delta Variant wreaking havoc, and so many individuals refusing to get vaccinated). Sometimes, I feel like all we can do is cross our fingers and wish for the best. Other times, screaming (and shaking certain people) seems like a reasonable solution.

But since you aren’t here to hear me ramble about my pandemic worries, let us move on to the Scribblings. Today’s prompt was inspired by the title of a video  (see below). Even before watching the short piece, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s words, “War is over! If you want it brewed all sorts of thoughts in my head. So... for today’s prompt, I wish to invite you to write using those words as inspiration.

Share poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, short or long(ish) pieces—if choosing prose, the word count should be 369 words or fewer. Add the direct link to your contribution. We welcome new pieces, recent or newish pieces (i.e., written in the last 30 days), and older pieces which have been substantially rewritten (not just slightly tweaked, here and there. If possible, please include in your post a link to the previous version). As always, we encourage you to visit other poets and storytellers. Let them know what their words make you think and feel.

 Let us write, read, discuss… and grow!