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Elements of Craft

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Group Details

We are thrilled to welcome you to Write the World’s new public group, Elements of Craft. From March 23rd through May 16th, we will dive into a variety of writing styles, techniques, and forms that will elevate your writing to new heights and deepen your understanding of the craft.

Your group leaders, Anna and Chris, will introduce a new technique each week to be explored through two prompts. As recent college grads and fellow lovers of words, we are excited to share some of our favorite elements of writing, digging deeper into common techniques while also venturing into the relatively obscure. We hope that you will contribute your own discoveries, too!

This group is open to all writers on Write the World. We look forward to getting to know each other in this smaller sub-community within the larger WtW platform. Each week, we will select a piece written in this group to be featured as our "Monday Musings" pick on the site. And at the end of our eight weeks together, you will be equipped with a portfolio of your work that will represent some of the most valuable, intricate, and downright cool elements of writing as a craft. 

You can jump in at any point, but we hope that you will join us from the start! Group members will have the opportunity to receive an “Elements of Craft” profile picture to be used on your WtW account.

Join now and stay tuned for new announcements and prompts starting Tuesday, March 23rd. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us by cc’ing both Anna, at agibbs@writetheworld.com, and Chris, at chris@writetheworld.com.

We can’t wait to explore the elements of craft with you!
-Anna and Chris

Announcements

  • A Fond Farewell

    Dear writers,

    At long last, the Elements of Craft group is closing. We have so much enjoyed our time with this extraordinary group of writers, reading your wonderful work and learning more about your literary interests.

    The group will officially close tomorrow at 2 PM (EDT). When the group closes, you will still be able to view your past writing; however, you will not have access to peer reviews, resources, or prompts, so be sure to save anything that you want to hold on to! You might do this by republishing your pieces under “Free Writing” on the main site!

    Our anthology prompt will continue to stay open for another month, so you can continue to add your favorite pieces to this collection and enjoy reading the selected work of others. We will also begin to periodically feature anthology pieces on the main site during the month of June!

    Lastly, if you haven’t filled out our survey, we would love to hear from you; new Write the World groups may be on the horizon, and your collective feedback will shape what they will look like!

    Survey Link: https://airtable.com/shrXDGdowSRW0hCUC

    Until next time!
    Chris and Anna

     
    5 months ago
  • tl;dr: Take our 5-minute survey to let us know what you thought about Elements of Craft!

    Hello writers,

    Thank you to everyone who has already filled out our survey! If you haven’t already, we hope that you will take five minutes today to share some thoughts about your Elements of Craft experience. We want to know how we can make future groups even better!

    Here’s the 5-minute survey link: https://airtable.com/shrXDGdowSRW0hCUC 

    We really appreciate your feedback, so upon completing the survey, you will receive a discount code 30% off ANY of the Write the World workshops happening this summer. There’s a workshop for everyone, ranging from poetry to flash fiction to screenwriting. Definitely check them out!

    Finally, a reminder that Elements of Craft closes THIS SUNDAY, MAY 30TH. When the group closes, you WILL still be able to view your past writing; however, you WILL NOT have access to peer reviews, resources, or prompts. Make sure to save anything that you want to hold on to! The anthology prompt will stay open longer, so you’ll be able to continue adding to our group’s collection of favorites. 

    We hope you enjoy these last few days of wrapping up your Elements of Craft work!
    Anna
    5 months ago
  • Hello writers,
     
    I hope you’re enjoying a productive, inspiring week of writing and/or reading! This is just a quick reminder that our Elements of Craft group will be closing in a little over a week, as well as some brief housekeeping notes as we begin to wrap things up:
     
    When the group closes, you WILL still be able to view your past writing; however, you WILL NOT have access to peer reviews, comments, resources, or prompts. Also, your pieces from this group will no longer be available to the public, and will only be available to you.

    If you would like to continue workshopping some of your Elements of Craft pieces with your peers after the group is closed, we suggest that you copy and paste the piece and then post it as “Free Writing” to the global dashboard. Otherwise, please download/copy any other materials you wish to save by May 30th. Please reach out to us if you have any questions!
     
    In the meantime, check out our final prompt, “Elements of Craft Anthology,” where you can repost a chosen piece written in this group. We’d love to get all your top-notch writing in one place!
     
    We also hope that you will respond to our quick, 5-minute survey if you haven’t yet! Your feedback will be instrumental in shaping future Write the World groups, and we greatly appreciate any input. As a thank you, you will also receive a discount code that gives you an extra 30% off of ANY Write the World workshop upon completing the survey!
     
    Survey link: https://airtable.com/shrXDGdowSRW0hCUC 
     
    Warmly,
    Chris
    5 months ago
  • Last Monday Musings & Feedback Survey

    Hello writers,

    Elements of Craft just ended, which means it’s our LAST Monday Musings today! The honor goes to gabsie and her wonderful piece, “A Tribute to Tibidabo.” 

    From the very first line, gabsie takes us straight to Barcelona. She engages all the senses: not only do our eyes feast on landmarks in the city, but we hear children’s laughter and cooing pigeons, and feel the warm sunshine on our skin. We even feel ourselves riding on the Ferris wheel – how cool is it that the repetitive, circular motion of the villanelle mimics the wheel’s rotation! In particular, I really love the way that this poem holds the reader in a single moment. The repeating lines continually return the reader to that moment so that we can literally feel that Barcelona’s life (which has, over the course of the poem, merged with our own lives) is standing still. Amazing work, gabsie!

    As a reminder, the Elements of Craft group will close in just a couple weeks. When the group closes, you WILL still be able to view your past writing; however, you WILL NOT have access to peer reviews, comments, resources, or prompts. Also, your pieces from this group will no longer be available to the public, and will only be available to you. 

    If you would like to continue workshopping some of your Elements of Craft pieces with your peers after the group is closed, we suggest that you copy and paste the piece and then post it as “Free Writing” to the global dashboard (NOT within the group). Please download/copy any other materials you wish to save by May 30th. Let us know if you have any questions about this!

    Finally, we hope you’ll take 5 minutes to respond to our survey so we can incorporate all your suggestions into future groups! Once you’ve completed the survey, you will receive a discount code that gives you an extra 30% off of any Write the World workshop.

    Again, here's the survey link: https://airtable.com/shrXDGdowSRW0hCUC 

    Warmly,
    Anna
    5 months ago
  • Well, as the Bard once said, isn’t parting such sweet sorrow! We hope you enjoyed the past eight weeks as we took a closer look at some of the many elements of our craft. Don’t forget to add your favorite piece to the group anthology within the next two weeks.

    We’ve also put together a short survey (you can access it HERE)! We would love to get your feedback on what you thought Elements of Craft did (or didn’t do) well, as well as any suggestions for future Write the World groups of this kind. As a thank you, we are offering a 30% discount code on any Write the World workshop to all who complete the survey!

    Finally, find below a final roadmap of all the prompts, readings, and challenges from the group. We encourage you to go back and spend some time with prompts you didn’t get to or readings that you had bookmarked. The group will be deactivated two weeks from today, so we hope you’ll find some time in the next two weeks to wrap up your Elements of Craft work!

    Til next time!
    Anna & Chris

    Roadmap
    Week 1: Place
    Prompt 1: Setting the Stage. Write a story grounded by place names.
    Prompt 2: Hometown. Write a poem about an imagined hometown.
    Free Writing” prompt in the Announcements: Write a poem or a story in a place you don’t usually write.
    Further reading: 
    Week 2: Form Reflects Content
    Prompt 1: Sestina. Write a 39-line poem using 6 repeated end-words.
    Prompt 2: The Sonnet. Write a 14-line poem that speaks to your mind, body, and soul.
    Free Writing” prompt in the Announcements: Write a villanelle, a strict form that repeats certain lines. 
    Further reading: 
    Week 3: Imagery and Symbolism
    Prompt 1: The Symbol. Write a piece with a telling image.
    Prompt 2: Image Bridge. Write a short story with a series of connected images.
    Further reading:  Try this out: Find out which fictional character you are by taking this fun quiz.

    Week 4: Playing with Punctuation
    Prompt 1: Breaking the Rules. Write a piece without conventional punctuation.
    Prompt 2: Changing the Rules. Write a poem with thoughtful punctuation choices.
    Free Writing” prompts in the Announcements:
    • Revisit an old poem and significantly shorten it to capture a sharp image.
    • Revisit an old piece and change the punctuation to affect meaning and/or tone.
    Further reading: Try this out: Take our Oxford comma survey to tell us if you love or hate the extra comma!

    Week 5: Meditative Writing
    Prompt 1: Writing as Meditation. Reflect on the natural world.
    Prompt 2: Ode to the Ordinary. Pay tribute to an ordinary object.
    Free Writing” prompt in the Announcements: 
    Further reading:  Try this out: Take our survey about your writing rituals.

    Week 6: Dialogue
    Prompt 1: Speak Your Mind. Share a character’s internal dialogue.
    Prompt 2: The Dialogue Poem. Hold a conversation in verse.
    Free Writing” prompt in the Announcements: Write a story that ends with unheard dialogue, and tag it “The Unsaid.”
    Further reading:  Week 7: Writing Constraints
    Prompt 1: Your Writing, Your Rule. Write a piece with a telling image.
    Prompt 2: Larding. Try out an Oulipo writing technique.
    Free Writing” prompts in the Announcements: Lop off the first half of an old poem’s lines.
    Further reading: 
    Week 8: Endings
    Prompt 1: Happily Ever After? Write a new ending.
    Prompt 2: Epiphany. Conclude a story with profound realization. 
    Free Writing” prompts in the Announcements: Edit an old piece and explain why you made certain changes.
    Try this out: Take our survey about your favorite pieces.
    Further reading:
    • You can find the full story of Araby here — we highly recommend it!
    Don't forget to add your favorite piece to our Elements of Craft anthology!
    5 months ago
  • Your Favorites

    Hello writers, 

    Thank you so much for sharing some of your favorite pieces with us! We’ve added them all to our reading list. We loved learning the reasons why a particular book or poem resonated with you. A few of you described a book that was your “first love”; others of you felt a personal connection to the work’s themes; and others were enchanted by language and style. 

    Here are a few of your responses...

    Book series: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
    • Why they love it: It was the first book series that immersed me completely and sparked my love of fantasy.
    • Elements of craft: Characterization, plot
    Book of poetry: What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer
    • Why they love it: The way she wields vulnerability in her poems, she makes you feel vulnerable too. She makes you uncomfortable by asking questions that highlight the insecurities of society and describing vulnerable parts of the experience of life. By the end I felt like she'd ripped me apart.
    • Elements of craft: Syntax, diction
    Poem: “After Apple-Picking” by Robert Frost
    • Why they love it: It’s stuck with me because of how beautiful and soft the language is. There are some specific lines that will never NOT be beautiful. "Toward heaven still,"  "My instep arch not only keeps the ache / It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round," and still others. I adore this poem. 
    • Elements of craft: Imagery, figurative language, diction
    Poem: “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth
    • Why they love it: The fact that this poem is based on an event (some of the author's fondest memories with his sister in a daffodil field). This drew me closer as I have a sibling myself, and it often takes me back to the precious memories I have made with my sibling.
    • Elements of craft: Memory and rhythm
    Novel: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
    • Why they love it: The authors’ writing style was confounding and beautiful, somehow calm and chaotic all at once. It was like a coming of age story without any cringey lines or stereotypes. There wasn’t one sentence in that book that I didn’t adore. 
    • Elements of craft: Imagery, characterization
    Book series: I Funny by James Patterson
    • Why they love it: I see myself in [the protagonist] because he puts his soul into what he does and motivates himself by thinking of others. I've read other books that helped me through hard times or that changed my view on the world, but just like love - your first is always the one you're most fond of. 
    • Elements of craft: Humor, characterization
    **

    Make sure you also check out these additional recommendations!
    5 months ago
  • A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” - Richard Bach

    Sometimes it can seem like great authors are superhuman. When we read a masterpiece, it’s often hard to see all the drafts behind it; instead it seems to have arrived in the world fully-formed, as if created by a god. But what we don’t see are all the scratched-out lines, the cut sections and revised words, not to mention the stacks of ditched stories and years of late nights.  

    Writing is hard – and it’s hard for the pros, too. One story that I keep tucked in the back of my mind is John Steinbeck writing his magnum opus, Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939. Today it’s regarded as one of the most famous American novels ever. And yet even while Steinbeck was drafting it, he was tormented by self-doubt. Throughout the five months he spent writing Grapes of Wrath, he kept daily diary entries about his progress on the book. Check out some of his thoughts – keeping in mind that they occurred at the same time he was writing a book that would one day be taught in English classrooms across the United States:

    My many weaknesses are beginning to show their heads. I simply must get this thing out of my system. I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won’t last, and that will be all right. I’ll try to go on with work now. Just a stint every day does it. I keep forgetting.”

    “Yesterday was a bust and I’m sorry but I think today will be all right.”

    “It’s just a run-of-the-mill book. And the awful thing is that it is absolutely the best I can do. Now to work on it.”

    Writers that most inspire us aren’t so different from everyone else. Even the greats struggle with self-doubt and writer’s block, bad writing days and lack of motivation. What sets the greats apart from the rest, then, lies largely in their commitment to the craft, in writing a bit each day, even when they’re unsure. 

    Keep writing – who knows what you will create one day.   

    Anna
    5 months ago
  • On the Importance of Editing

    So, you’ve followed through on a burst of inspiration, written a beautiful narrative, and penned the final line — time to publish, right? Not so fast! The editing process can feel like an evil, if necessary, cousin of the writing process, and the urge to publish without revising can often seem too strong to overcome.

    However, the truth of the matter is that all published writing, from great novels to flash fiction stories, are subjected to multiple official or unofficial revisions well before they meet the eyes of readers. Stephen King wrote in his memoir that “when you write a story, you're telling yourself the story… When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” Writing is an exercise in repetition, a steady process of polishing. Editing may lack some of the romanticism inherent to an unfinished plot or character arc, but a refined work of writing is a reward worthy of your efforts.

    I encourage you to take some time this week to go back and edit a few of your Elements of Craft pieces and elaborate in the footnotes why you made certain omissions or additions. Don’t forget to reach out to each other via the peer review feature to get a second set of eyes on your work! One our greatest resources as writers are the other writing minds around us.

    This process can be a slow, sometimes painful practice, and once you’re absorbed by your edits and revisions, it can be hard to tell whether you’re pushing forward or tumbling backward. So, I’ll leave you with a final quote to commiserate with, and to emphasize that even literary giants spend time stumbling over their sentences: 

    “I have been correcting the proofs of my poems. In the morning, after hard work, I took a comma out of one sentence…. In the afternoon I put it back again.” — Oscar Wilde

    Good luck!
    Chris
    5 months ago
  • Today's Prompt and This Week's Featured Piece!

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to Week 8 of Elements of Craft! For this final week of prompts, we will take a look at a handful of ways to end a story. If you’re ready to jump right in, check out today’s prompt: “Happily Ever After?”!

    Before you do, though, I encourage you to read our Monday Musings selection this week: “On Mesozoic Dreams and Irrational Men,” by Harzi. Beneath the poem’s playful tone, there lies a striking investigation into surrealism and existentialism, not to mention its showcasing beautiful bits of verse (“I have also been a leaf, / A duke of the earth - / I once have existed green”). Although the piece begins with a wry, rather tongue-in-cheek debate between rationality and irrationality, we are led through a brief set of stanzas toward a delicate resolution that blurs the line between dreams and realities — that “history speaks like some kind of dream”. I will be thinking about this poem for some time yet!

    Shifting gears, we learned that the survey (available HERE) posted yesterday wasn’t able to be accessed. It should be fixed now, but please don't hesitate to reach out to either me (chris@writetheworld.com) or Anna (agibbs@writetheworld.com) if problems persist!

    As always, I look forward to reading your writing!
    Chris

     
    5 months ago
  • Welcome to Element of Craft's Final Week!

    Hello writers, 

    We can hardly believe that it’s already Week 8 – our very last week of Elements of Craft! It feels fitting that we’ll spend our last two prompts discussing how to write strong endings. We’ll also be wrapping up all of your writing from the past 8 weeks. Keep an eye out for a special bonus prompt on Sunday that will act as a capstone to all the awesome work from your time in Elements of Craft.

    We’ve gotten the chance to share some of our favorite poems and stories with you – now it’s your turn! We want to know the books you loved as a child, the characters who felt like friends, or the few lines of poetry that are always on the tip of your tongue.

    Let us know HERE in a quick 2-minute survey. We’ll be sharing your answers with the rest of the group at the end of the week so that we may all have the chance to spend time with each others’ favorites. 

    Cheers to a wonderful last week,
    Anna & Chris
    5 months ago
  • Where is your poem’s meaning?

    One of Raymond Queneau’s contributions to his literary/mathematical society Oulipo (read Wednesday’s announcement “A Brief History of Oulipo” if you don’t know what I’m talking about!) was the idea of “poetic redundancy.” He believed that in some poems (in particular, sonnets by French poet Mallarmé), the poem’s meaning is concentrated at the end of the lines. So if you were to chop off the first half of each line and leave behind just the last few words, you’d still capture the heart and meaning of the original poem.

    If you have some time today, look back at a poem that you wrote during Elements of Craft or any other original poem. What happens if you lop off most of the line and leave just the last few words? Post your new poem in “Free Writing” and let us know in the comments what you think about Queneau’s idea and how it applies to your own poem. Do you still see a meaning in your abbreviated poem? 

    A couple interesting facts about Queneau’s work: his most famous book Exercises in Style tells the same short story in 99 different ways. He also wrote a book of 10 sonnets that contained 1014 (one hundred trillion!) different poems if you rearranged the lines!

    Happy weekend,
    Anna & Chris
    5 months ago
  • Learning from Adichie

    Today we’re going to turn our attention from writing constraints – which are fun but exhausting! – to consider the dangers of telling a single story. In 2009, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie went viral for her Ted Talk discussing the single story. She was already a renowned writer, having published two highly-honored novels and a critically-acclaimed collection of short stories. She’s well-known for her expert level skill of creating real, compelling characters. They’re the type of characters that stick in your head for a while, that you feel like you know. 

    Adichie explained in her Ted Talk that a “single story” (a one-sided perspective) is dangerous because it doesn’t take other perspectives into account – it only tells one part of the story. When she was growing up, she said, she didn’t recognize herself in any of the stories that she read, to which “the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature.” She goes on to say:

    “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

    And in an interview with Parul Sehgal, she elaborated further: 

    “I don’t start out writing to challenge stereotypes. I think that can be as dangerous as starting out to “prove” stereotypes. And I say “dangerous” because fiction that starts off that way often ends up being contrived, burdened by its mission. I do think that simply writing in an emotionally truthful way automatically challenges the single story because it humanizes and complicates. And my constant reminder to myself is to be truthful.” 

    As you write this week and beyond, keep Adichie’s words of wisdom in your mind. How can we all strive to be emotionally truthful in our work? How can we take care to complicate by adding other perspectives and nuances to a situation that might seem straightforward at face value? How can we turn our heroes and villains into real breathing humans, with virtues and flaws and someone or something they love deeply? 

    Also, if you have some time, spend some time with one of Adichie’s moving stories. Notice how she has a way of gently breaking your heart.

    Anna
    5 months ago
  • A Brief History of Oulipo

    With our focus this week centered on writing with constraints, we would be remiss to not address “Oulipo.” Oulipo, short for ouvroir de littérature potentielle (loose translation: “workshop of potential literature”), was a literary and mathematical society founded by Raymond Queneau, a poet, and François Le Lionnes, a chemical engineer. 

    Georges Perec, the author featured in our latest prompt, was also a prominent “Oulipian,” an identity that Raymond Queneau once so eccentrically described as a “rat who constructs the labyrinth from which they plan to escape.”

    It isn’t an inaccurate description. The genius of Oulipo exists in its rigid, self-imposed constraints. The Oulipian writer decides to write a novel without using the letter “E,” and sets out to achieve that goal, no matter how painful the process. In doing so, they are able to write sentences and stories they wouldn’t have thought possible... or so the thinking goes. The creation of Oulipo was also predicated on the idea that no writing is without constraint, that a writer is bound to their own comfort in style, form, and content. The Oulipian philosophy is to accept this and double-down by creating new restraints, resulting in fresh viewpoints and crisp writing.

    Was that your experience? As you write within the constraints offered this week, leave a note in the footnotes or in your message to readers explaining your reaction to this strange manner of composition. And if you are still curious about Oulipo, check out this enlightening article written in The Guardian.

    Until next time!
    Chris

     
    5 months ago
  • Week 7, and this week's featured piece

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to Week 7 of Elements of Craft! This week we will focus on unorthodox writing constraints and techniques. When you’re ready to try some out, check out today’s prompt: “Your Writing, Your Rule”!

    Before you do, though, I encourage you to go read lulu.mae’s stunning poem, and our pick for Monday Musings this week, “Ode to the Power of Cherry Blossoms.” Talk about form reflecting content – lulu.mae uses both sound and line breaks to build power right into the reading of the poem. The “p” and “b” sounds mimic the way that the blossoms “beat through the thickest wood of branches”; you can just hear the crackling and popping of the blossoms! Throughout the piece, we move from the “p” (pink/ pink/ pink/ pink) and “b” sounds (blossoms/ branches/ brief/ bleed) into softer “w”s, “m”s, and “s”s (wind/ words/ marking/ sowing/ seeds), until we explode right back into pollute/ pollen/ pink/ pink/ pink/ POWER. It’s a short poem that makes use of every single word and packs quite the punch.

    I also love that lulu.mae chose to use such powerful alliteration in a poem about soft petals – it’s quite the juxtaposition! She hammers in the sensation of breaking through her use of enjambment, which happens when a line overflows into the next line: “They bleed/From wounds.” 

    All of your pieces have contained so much power, and it’s been such a pleasure to read them. Keep up the awesome work this week!

    Anna
    5 months ago
  • Sharing Your Writing Rituals

    Sometimes the perfect pre-writing activity is just what you need to get writing. Last week, we asked you to share any writing rituals that you practice. We loved reading all the different ways that you find inspiration and compel the words on to the page. The pandemic has not slowed you down – if anything, most of you are writing more than ever! In the name of sharing trade secrets, we wanted to give you some of your peers’ tips, so that we all may have the chance to try out a new pre-writing ritual. If you’ve been feeling stuck with writing lately, maybe one of these activities will be the one that finally does the trick!

    **

    “Do some stretches.”

    “I make a cup of tea and find a comfortable spot on the sofa. I like to take some time to think before I write. Sometimes this takes half an hour in which I simply remember what I did that day, what I dreamt last night or what my surrounding looks, feels, or smells like.”

    “I always make tea.”

    “I like to drink some water, then I stop everything else and concentrate fully on the words and the screen/page.”

    “I make sure I have a full water bottle so I don't have to get up.”

    “I go to the bathroom beforehand and then find a quiet, generally empty place to work.”

    “I always like to put on a little bit of music that fits the scene, especially if it's dramatic.”

    “If I'm needing inspiration, I'll put on some emotional or dramatic music and dance around for awhile. (as long as no one is around of course!). I know it's weird but it works.”

    “I like to listen fantasy music to get me completely in the mood.”

    “Before I write, I always make sure to put on instrumental music. If the situation permits, I will sit in my balcony to write, and if it's raining, well that's just a plus!”

    “Take a few deep breaths, and relax. It'll be much harder to write naturally if you aren't feeling comfortable.”

    “I do deep emotional imagination of my topic so that everything which I write has a living effect.”

    “I often find that my best work started spontaneously with random ideas, which usually does not involve much routine. I do like to take walks outside or just travel before writing, though.”

    “The one feature of my writing I can always count on is unpredictability.”

    “I read what I have previously written not only to get into the flow, but to review and refresh my memory of what emotion / scene I'm writing.”

    “I write on an old typewriter. When I write, I first take a moment to just settle in. I always note the smell: my typewriter has a certain, old sort of smell that makes me so happy! I put the paper in—it takes me a minute or two to get it perfectly straight. I always leave the exact same amount of space at the top of the page. The I let myself say hello to my characters, and I begin to look at where they are. I zero in on them and build a scene around them. Then, I see what they do.”

    “I definitely get more inspiration at night.”

    “Chocolate. I find that I love chocolate before writing as it calms me down. I also take hot showers.”

    **
    6 months ago
  • The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

    We tend to associate characters with stories, not poetry – but poems have characters too. In fact, all poems have a “speaker” which is oftentimes distinct from the poet. For instance, I could write a poem from the viewpoint of a tomato, in which case I am the poet and the tomato is the poem’s speaker. The tomato, then, is also the poem’s main character! 

    One of poetry’s most famous characters is J. Alfred Prufrock, the protagonist of T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Eliot’s poem consists entirely of Prufrock’s internal dialogue as he grapples with self-doubt, regret, and loneliness. 

    It’s quite the beautiful poem, and I hope you’ll give it a full read. But in the meantime, here are a few particularly striking lines from Prufrock’s speech. Pay attention to the imagery and the music of the words; try out the words aloud. No prompt today, just a question: Do you dare to eat a peach?

    Anna

    **

    “Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky...
    The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, ...
     
    And indeed there will be time
    To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” ...
     
    Do I dare
    Disturb the universe? ...
     
    I should have been a pair of ragged claws
    Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. ...
    I grow old ... I grow old ...
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
     
    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
     
    I do not think that they will sing to me.”
    6 months ago
  • The Unsaid

    Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all. Or at least, nothing that the audience can hear!

    Here’s a challenge: Try writing a scene (or short story) where the last line isn’t heard. How can you suggest or imply to your readers what’s been said between your characters? Also, keep in mind how leaving something unsaid (or rather, “unread”) could create a certain power or intrigue. Post your piece under Freewriting, and tag your title with a subtitle: “The Unsaid”.

    Happy writing!
    Chris

    P.S. Make sure you tell us about your own writing rituals over the next few days! We’re looking forward to sharing some of your ideas soon – thanks to all who have already filled out the survey!
    6 months ago
  • Today's Prompt and This Week's Featured Piece

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to Week 6th of Elements of Craft! This week we will focus on dialogue in its less conventional and more poetic forms. When you’re ready to dive in, check out today’s prompt: “Speak Your Mind”!

    If you’re feeling more of a reader than a writer today, then take a moment to read this week’s Monday Musings piece, “Sandpiper” by Nors. If you have ever spent a day on the beach, from the Caribbean to Cape Cod, and watched the surf roll across the sand, then it’s likely you have seen tiny shorebirds known as “sandpipers” hopping and sprinting at the water’s edge. As you read, keep in mind how the structure of Nors’ piece mimics the ebb and flow of the coastline as well as the haphazard steps of the sandpipers. The poem also possesses a wonderfully intimate viewpoint and a tactful, playful degree of tension. “Sandpiper” is truly a must-read!

    Here’s to another inspired week of writing!
    Chris
     
    6 months ago
  • Ode’s Counterpart: The Elegy

    The ode is an old art form, stretching back to the Ancient Greeks. In the 600s BC, the famous lyric poet Sappho, well-known for her writing on same-gender erotic love, wrote an ode to Aphrodite. Today it is the only one of Sappho’s complete poems to survive. Most of Sappho’s surviving writing exists only in fragments – albeit beautiful fragments. 

    The elegy too was invented by the Ancient Greeks. Both forms of poetry are tributes to something, but the ode is a poem of praise and adoration, whereas an elegy is a poem of lament and loss. It’s poignant how joy and sadness can come hand-in-hand: that which is worthy of an ode may well inspire an elegy one day. 

    As you read a few of Sappho’s fragments below (as translated by Anne Carson in her book If Not, Winter), consider whether you might find these words and images in an ode or an elegy

    “I would not think to touch the sky with two arms”

    “someone will remember us
    I say
    even in another time”

    “]sing to us
    the one with violets in her lap
    ]mostly
    ]goes astray”

    “]
    ]you will remember
    ]for we in our youth
    did these things
    yes many and beautiful things
    ]
    ]
    ]”

    We can find beauty in both joy and sorrow. If you feel so inclined, I challenge you to return to your ode (or to write one, if you haven’t already!), and write an elegy for that same object after it has been lost. Will you write about your favorite shoes that no longer fit? An old chair worn out with use? A wilted houseplant? Keep in mind that elegies typically have three parts: an expression of sadness, an expression of praise for the object (similar to the ode), and finally, consolation and solace – finding meaning in the loss. 

    If you do experiment with the elegy form, I hope that you’ll share your creation with us under “Free Writing.”

    Bittersweetly,
    Anna
    6 months ago
  • The results are in!

    Thank you for taking our little survey on the controversial serial comma. We received 39 responses, and… drum roll… NONE of you hate the Oxford comma! Here are the results:

    Overall, 64.1% of you love the Oxford comma, while 35.9% of you have no strong feeling about the Oxford comma. 

    In the US, 76% of respondents loved the Oxford comma. In other countries, we saw remarkable consistency in our small pool of respondents: 100% of respondents in India, United Kingdom, and Australia had no strong feeling about the comma, while 100% of respondents in Canada and the Philippines loved it!

    We got a great range of responses elaborating on your feelings toward the punctuation mark:
    • 41% of people were pro-Oxford-comma because it avoids ambiguity and keeps sentences clear. As one of you pointed out, “it makes sentences not only more clear in their meaning, but also easier to read.”
    • 28% of people said that they use the comma because it feels natural. “At first I did not realize it was not necessary!” wrote one person. Another person pointed out they started using it from a young age because they were used to seeing it in books.
    • 23% of people argued that it depends on the situation. As one of you pointed out, “If your sentence is unclear without it, make it clearer by better word choice. If it's clear without it, then no need to add it in.”
    • 18% of people said that they were taught to use the Oxford comma, while just two people said that they had been taught not to use it – though both of those people added that other teachers did instruct them to use it!
    • Interestingly, 2 people mentioned poetry as a separate consideration when using the Oxford comma. Of the two, one person said they do tend to use it in poetry (for style), and the other said they drop it (for rhythm)!
    Thanks for taking our survey – we enjoyed hearing your responses from all around the world. We hope you're having a delightful, relaxing, and writing-full weekend! (Or, should we also say, a delightful, relaxing and writing-full weekend!)

    Anna & Chris
    6 months ago
  • Writing Rituals

    When Maya Angelou wanted to write, she booked herself a hotel room. Victor Hugo used to drink a cup of coffee and two raw eggs before he could sit down to write. Haruki Murakami starts writing at 4 am every morning.  

    What are some of your rituals that help get the words flowing? Is there anything you always do before you start writing? 

    Click HERE to tell us more about your writing routine, and we’ll share some of your responses with the rest of the group soon. We look forward to hearing some ideas for writing even when the words are hard to find!

    Anna & Chris

    P.S. Last chance to tell us your thoughts on the Oxford comma! Results coming soon to theatres near you :)
    6 months ago
  • Spending Time with the World

    Across the breadth of human history and geography, we have drawn inspiration from nature. The trick is taking the time to reflect, to take a break and gaze up, down, and around, to look both outward and inward.

    In his poem “Zazen on Ching’t’ing Mountain,” the 8th century Chinese poet Li Bai takes a moment to reflect on nature, consider his place within it, and contemplate its future after he is gone:

    “The birds have vanished down the sky.
    Now the last cloud drains away.
    We sit together, the mountain and me,
    until only the mountain remains.”

    “Zazen” is the primary method of Zen Buddhist meditation (practiced extensively in China’s Tibetan Plateau) in which a person meditates in a seated position. So, we can imagine Li Bai situated on Ching-t’ing Mountain as he meditates, listening perhaps to his surroundings, before being compelled to write poetry.

    Great works of writing are often born of such tranquil moments. To borrow a line from Ocean Vuong (a poet we’ve highlighted earlier in the group!), I’d like to emphasize that “loneliness is still time spent with the world.” I encourage you to keep this in mind -- to make time for doing nothing but existing in the world -- as you develop as writers!

    Chris
     
    6 months ago
  • Week 5: Today’s prompt and this week’s featured piece!

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to Week 5 of Elements of Craft! This week we will practice noticing, observing, and reflecting as a key skill in writing. To get started, I encourage you to check out today’s prompt, “Writing as Meditation"! 

    I also hope that you take a few minutes today to read this week’s featured piece “Aris with Max-Dalton” by Sunday. The writer moves so naturally from image to image that I find myself inside the characters’ minds, flowing along with their thoughts. This effect was helped along by the specificity of detail: twigs that snapped like tortilla chips, the hairbrushs’s hollow handle, the life savers glowing in the sun on the car dashboard. And my favorite image (though it’s so hard to choose!) is perhaps the last: “the blue air made them feel underwater, the world muffled and calm.” Amazing work, Sunday.

    Looking forward to seeing the world in a new way through your pieces this week! 
    Anna
    6 months ago
  • 4 weeks done, 4 weeks to go!

    It’s hard to believe that we are officially halfway through our 8 weeks of Elements of Craft. To those of you who are new to the group: welcome! Whether you’ve been here since week 1 or this is your first introduction to Elements of Craft, we’re glad you’re here. Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve covered so far, in case you want to check out (or revisit) any prompts or resources!

    ~~~
    Week 1: Place
    Prompt 1: Setting the Stage. Write a story grounded by place names.
    Prompt 2: Hometown. Write a poem about an imagined hometown.
    Free Writing” challenge in the Announcements: Write a poem or story in a place you don’t usually write.
    Further reading: 
    Week 2: "Form Reflects Content"
    Prompt 1: Sestina. Write a 39-line poem using 6 repeated end-words.
    Prompt 2: The Sonnet. Write a 14-line poem that speaks to your mind, body, and soul.
    Free Writing” challenge in the Announcements: Write a villanelle, a strict form that repeats certain lines. 
    Further reading: 
    Week 3: Imagery and Symbolism
    Prompt 1: The Symbol. Write a piece with a telling image.
    Prompt 2: Image Bridge. Write a short story with a series of connected images.
    Further reading:  Try this out: Find out which fictional character you are by taking this fun quiz.

    Week 4: Playing with Punctuation
    Prompt 1: Breaking the Rules. Write a piece without conventional punctuation.
    Prompt 2: Changing the Rules. Write a poem with thoughtful punctuation choices.
    Free Writing” challenges in the Announcements:
    • Revisit an old poem and significantly shorten it to capture a sharp image.
    • Revisit an old piece and change the punctuation to affect meaning and/or tone.
    Further reading: Try this out: Take our Oxford comma survey to tell us how you feel about the extra comma!
    ~~~

    And you’re all caught up! This week we will kick off the second half of Elements of Craft with an exploration of meditative writing. We look forward to seeing your brilliant pieces. 

    We’ve also included a special Elements of Craft profile picture in the “Resources” tab, just for you! To access the image, click the resource link, download the image as a jpeg, and then go to your profile to change your profile picture. We look forward to seeing you around the global community!

    Here’s to four more weeks,
    Anna & Chris
    6 months ago
  • Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

    As we’ve discussed this week, punctuation is powerful. It can change tone, delivery, and interpretation, not to mention the entire meaning of a sentence. To observe the power of a carefully placed punctuation mark, check out some examples from Lynne Truss’s book Eats, Shoots & Leaves:

        A woman, without her man, is nothing.
        A woman: without her, man is nothing.

        The panda eats shoots and leaves. 
        The panda eats, shoots, and leaves.

        Let’s eat, grandma!
        Let’s eat grandma.

    And my personal favorite:

        Dear Jack,  
        I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to     being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re     apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours? 
        Jill 

        Dear Jack,
        I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to     being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re     apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
        Yours,
        Jill

    Punctuation week is coming to a full stop, but I have one more mini-prompt for you. Return to an old piece, and copy-and-paste the original version into a new “Free Writing” piece. Then change the punctuation! See how you can affect both tone (for example, periods vs exclamation points!), as well as meaning (see examples above).

    Great work this week!
    Anna
    6 months ago
  • The Art of Capturing a "Precise Instant"

    Founded by Ezra Pound in the early 1900s, the Imagist movement promoted the conservation of words. Those in the movement believed in the use of sharp, precise language to convey a particular image. They probably wouldn’t have much liked James Wright’s poem, “A Blessing,” because he uses a lot of (in their opinion) unnecessary figurative language: "skin over a girl’s wrist," "shyly as wet swans," etc. 

    Pound described writing an Imagist poem as an attempt to “record [a] precise instant.” To see what he means by that, read his very short poem originally published in Poetry magazine in April 1913:
     
        “In a Station of the Metro”
        The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
        Petals on a wet, black bough.
     
    When Pound first wrote the poem, it had 30 lines. By the time he finished editing six months later, it had just 14 words. In cutting so much of the poem, Pound would have been extremely intentional in what he chose to keep. For instance, why ‘bough’ instead of ‘branch’? Why a semicolon instead of a comma? Why the use of “apparition,” a much longer word than any of the others?

    If you feel so inclined, spend a few minutes today revisiting one of your old poems. Make sure you save the original version –- then be ruthless in your cuts to sculpt the most precise image possible! I hope you consider sharing the new Imagist version of your poem in “Free Writing." 

    Also, if you have some time, check out Pound’s essay “Vorticism,” in which he describes (somewhere towards the middle of the essay) the process of writing the brief masterpiece “In a Station of the Metro.”

    Hope you have a lovely weekend,
    Anna
    6 months ago
  • The Oxford Comma Debate

    As we dive into punctuation this week, we can’t help but address a very important and controversial subject: the Oxford comma. 

    As you may know, the Oxford comma (also known as the “serial comma”) is the final comma in a list of things. For instance, in the sentence “I went to the store to buy apples, bananas, and grapes,” the comma after “bananas” is the Oxford comma. The choice to use the Oxford comma is stylistic and varies across publications. Its correctness also depends on the writer’s country and language. While fairly common in the US, many other countries use it situationally or not at all.

    Those who use the Oxford comma argue for its ability to avoid ambiguity. Check out this sentence with the Oxford comma:

        "I love my parents, Taylor Swift, and Batman."

    It’s clear that this person loves three things (parents, Taylor Swift, Batman). Now read the sentence without the Oxford comma:

        "I love my parents, Taylor Swift and Batman."

    Without our extra comma, the sentence could be interpreted two different ways: either the person loves three things, or their parents are Taylor Swift and Batman! In some cases, this ambiguity can be expensive – in 2017, a company lost millions of dollars because of it.

    Opponents of the Oxford comma claim that it is redundant. They make the point that the ambiguity can be avoided by restructuring the sentence in a more clear way. In their opinion, if there is ambiguity without the Oxford comma, that is the fault of the writer, who should have chosen a more clear way to express themselves. Alternatively, some people advocate for using the Oxford comma only when the sentence calls for it, and otherwise omitting it.

    According to the New York Times, the Oxford Comma is “perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.” Many people have a strong opinion on whether or not it should be used. We’re curious to hear what YOU think.

    Take this anonymous and quick survey to let us know! We’ll share the results at the end of the week. 

    Anna & Chris
    6 months ago
  • Punctuation, plain-and-simple

    Chris here! While Anna takes you through the intricacies of punctuation, I’d like to bring up one author who uses punctuation in an incredible, if rather blunt manner.

    All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, is in many ways a classic adventure story. It details the dangerous coming of age of a young man who runs away from his home in Texas and travels across the Mexican Border, where he seeks to fulfill his dream of an old, lawless, and romanticized West. But get this: the only consistent punctuation McCarthy uses throughout the book is the “full stop” (in other words, a period). Take a look at this remarkable paragraph detailing the protagonist’s heartbreak as related to the natural world:

    He remembered Alejandra and the sadness he’d first seen in the slope of her shoulders which he’d presumed to understand and of which he knew nothing and he felt a loneliness he’d not known since he was a child and he felt wholly alien to the world although he loved it still. He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.

    No prompt to go with this one, just a pure appreciation and gratitude for language, and, perhaps, the notion that once one masters the rules of writing, one is permitted to bend them!

    - Chris
     
    6 months ago
  • Week 4: Today’s prompt and this week’s featured piece!

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to Week 4 of Elements of Craft! This week Anna will take you through some of the ways that writers like to change, bend, and break the conventional rules of their craft, so be sure to check out today’s prompt, “Breaking the Rules”!

    Also (if you haven’t already!) take a moment to read this week’s featured piece, “Sunflowers,” by livpalmbos. I was consistently delighted with its sensory, sonorous descriptions, such as “Grandpa had had a voice like trees creaking in the wind, a pleasant, deep timbre” or “Grandpa's eyes were warm brown and crinkled at the corners, the skin creased like the petals of the sunflowers I helped him plant.” “Sunflowers'' never wavers from the symbol it proposes as it caringly tends to themes of life, love, and legacy, and I’m grateful to have read it!

    What a perfect way to begin the week,
    Chris
    6 months ago
  • Ocean Vuong, and Imagery in Poetry

    We focused on prose this week, but imagery can be an equally powerful and potent literary tool in poetry! The contemporary American-Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong is a master craftsman when it comes to poetry and imagery. In one poem, he describes his forlorn father as a “dark colt paused in downpour,” and in another, the moon as something “distant and flickering, trapped in beads of sweat.” If you have some spare time today, check out this enlightening interview with Ocean, where he discusses, among other things, his writing process, religion, the place of poetry in society, Emily Dickinson, social media, and the often difficult and lonely lifestyle of a writer.

    Thanks for another awesome week of writing!
    Chris
    6 months ago
  • Which Fictional Character Are You?

    Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a great week exploring imagery with Chris. I’m just popping in to ask: have you ever wondered which fictional character you’re most similar to? Try out this fun quiz that matches your perceived personality with a wide-ranging list of 1,600 fictional characters. Feel free to mention who was your #1 match in the footnotes of your next piece! Or get creative and share a “Freewriting" piece where you interact with your character twin (making sure to credit the source of your character, of course).

    Anna (or should I say, Eliza from the musical Hamilton!)
    6 months ago
  • Language Without Borders

    Jhumpa Lahiri, the author behind our prompt yesterday, is one of the coolest, most gifted writers around. Born in London, the daughter of Indian immigrants, she emigrated to America, where she was raised. An established writer, Lahiri has written novels in both English and Italian. A true language enthusiast, she now only writes in the latter. As writers practicing within the confines of the English Language, it can be too easy to forget that language is a necessary art that spans space and time, country and creed. Curious? If you have a few minutes, read this very brief interview with Lahiri, titled “No Language Has Power Over Another,” from PEN America.

    Happy Reading!
    Chris
    6 months ago
  • Week 3: This week's featured piece and a new profile picture!

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to week 3 of Elements of Craft! This week Chris will be leading you through a study of imagery and symbolism in storytelling. Make sure to check out tomorrow’s prompt, but in the meantime, take a look at this week's incredible Monday Musings piece: “Immigrant Goes Back” by NS Kumar. I enjoyed the writer’s unique take on the prompt – rather than writing about an entirely imagined town, they chose to write about their former hometown rendered hazy by time. By addressing the town directly, the writer creates a piece that feels enchanting, heartbreaking, and universal. Though I haven’t experienced the same exact events as the poem’s speaker, I read the line “I wish you brought in a storm/and wailed that you would never let me go” and felt it deep in my bones. 

    It’s hard to believe that we’re already a quarter of our way through Elements of Craft! We’re so glad that you’re all here for the ride. Whether you’ve responded to one prompt or all four, you’ve earned a badge of honor in our books. Follow this link to download the official Elements of Craft image to use as your profile picture for the duration of the group (and beyond!). You can also find the link in the “Resources” tab. 

    Have a great week!
    Anna
    6 months ago
  • Poet Feature: Dylan Thomas

    You might know the famous villanelle that starts with “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It was written by Dylan Thomas, a poet of the mid-early 20th century. Despite being of the same era as the hallowed Modernist giants like T.S. Elliot and W.H. Auden (the poet behind one of my favorites: “Funeral Blues”), Thomas, with his intensely lyrical and emotional verse, was much more aligned with the Romantic movement that defined the previous century. Despite his short life, his work has had far-reaching effects. Need proof? Phoebe Bridgers’ and Conor Oberst’s (together as Better Oblivion Community Center) most listened-to song is, in large part, inspired by him and his artistic viewpoints. You can read more about him here, at the Poetry Foundation.

    Alas, our week on restrictive poetry forms has come to an end. Luckily we have another week coming up later in the group that will focus on using constraints in writing, so we will get to continue exploring the fun contradiction that constraint can actually be freeing! 

    If you end up trying your hand at a villanelle, we hope you’ll share it with the group under “Freewriting.” Looking forward to starting Week 3!

    Chris
    6 months ago
  • Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? Same! When I feel stuck, I try writing a sestina. I know, I know... they’re tough! But my writer’s block usually comes from the overwhelming hugeness of possibility that comes with a blank page. By setting a constraint – like choosing to write in a restrictive form – I have a smaller number of things to think about. 

    So here’s another cool restrictive poetry form that you can try when you’re stuck: the villanelle. Villanelles have five three-line stanzas plus one four-line stanza. The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated in the next stanzas (check out the link for more detailed information about the form). The repetition of entire lines gives a song-like quality to the villanelle, which is fitting since villanelles were inspired by Italian and Spanish dance-songs!

    Check out Elizabeth Bishop’s beautiful villanelle “One Art,” which is a great example of how form can reflect content. Because of the form’s repetition, her insistence that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master” becomes a sort of mantra, and the reader has to wonder: maybe the art of losing is hard to master, after all.

    Anna
    7 months ago
  • Little Song: The History of the Sonnet

    The sonnet has a long, rich history as a poetry form. Its namesake comes from the Italian “sonetto,” or “little song.” Indeed, like much of music, these short, fourteen line poems are centered on themes of love, either romantic or platonic. Many think of Shakespearean sonnets as the archetypal example, but there also Petrarchan sonnets and (as we will see in tomorrow’s prompt) Modern sonnets. Here’s a quick explanation of their differences:

    The Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet is actually the original form, containing an octet (an eight-line stanza) followed by a sestet (a six-line stanza), each following a rhyme scheme. The octet offers a “proposition,” or “problem,” and sestet offers a resolution. The beginning of the sestet (the ninth line) is called the “volta,” or “turn,” where the poet begins to reflect on the first eight lines, or rather, the octet.

    The Shakespearean sonnet is similar in that it offers a “turn,” but only as a final couplet (a two-line stanza). It is also written in iambic pentameter (a tempo of roughly ten-syllables per line). The Shakespearean sonnet also contains a specific, adhered-to rhyme scheme of (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG). To learn more about rhyme schemes, and how to interpret them, check out this helpful resource!

    The Modern, and in the case of tomorrow’s poet, “American” sonnet, is more open-ended, concerning itself more with theme than construction. A Modern sonnet only has to be fourteen lines, and may or may not contain a given rhyme scheme or tempo. Still, they are largely concerned with ideas of love and reflection, and often contain the “volta,” or “turn,” in their final lines.

    Feel free to refer back to this announcement when you begin tomorrow's prompt!

    Chris
    7 months ago
  • This week's featured piece

    Hello writers!

    Welcome to week 2 of Elements of Craft! Before you get started on today's prompt, be sure to check out this week's Monday Musings piece: "remain. ruination awaits." by almost flora kane. I was amazed by its creativity and grace in incorporating so many imaginative places into a brief passage while foreshadowing a story of enormous scope (and one that I hope to read someday)!

    Happy writing,
    Chris
    7 months ago
  • Congrats, writers – we finished Week 1! Thanks for coming on this journey with us. To celebrate, we wanted to share one more mini prompt. Today, try writing a poem or story in a place where you don’t usually write. 

    This might mean literally writing in a different room, or perhaps you will change the conditions of your writing environment. Here are some ideas: Write outside. Write sitting on the floor. Turn off the lights and write by flashlight. Or grab your pen as soon as you wake up in the morning. Sometimes, it takes changing the normal to get our words flowing. 

    We invite you to share those words with the rest of the group under “Freewriting”! We hope you have a great end to the weekend, and we can’t wait for Week 2. 

    Anna and Chris
    7 months ago
  • Richard Hugo’s idea of “triggering towns” has always been intriguing to me. In some ways it feels spot-on. Hugo argues that if you’re too close to the subject, your allegiance as a poet might be to the subject rather than the language, and it may affect your ability to accurately convey your feelings about the subject. Have you ever felt like you have so many memories and feelings about a place that you can’t even begin to describe them to someone else who has never been there? That’s what Hugo is talking about. (To try Hugo’s technique out, check out yesterday’s prompt!)

    But on the other hand, the intimacy of writing about what you know, what you’ve actually experienced, the places you’ve been, the people in your life – there’s something uniquely special about that. The best sources of inspiration often do come from our own lives, because they are rich and interesting and important to us.

    I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read these two beautiful place-oriented poems by James Wright: “A Blessing” (one of my favorite poems!) and “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota.” Keep in mind that James Wright lived in Minnesota, the setting of both poems. As you savor them, think about how Wright’s relationship to these places in real life gives the reader such an intimate look at his experience of them. Spend some time with the emotional precision of his images: the horses bowing shyly like wet swans, the speaker feeling like they might break into blossom, the bronze butterfly and the unexpected beauty of “blazing golden stones.” Can you feel what the speaker feels in these moments?

    I hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
    Anna
    7 months ago
  • Place and Tone in the Poetry of Aracelis Girmay

    Hello writers! In addition to posting two prompts each week, Anna and I will also make a series of announcements that touch on different literary techniques, histories, and authors!

    So, if you have a moment today, check out the following poem, “Consider the Hands that Write this Letter,” by Aracelis Girmay. Notice how the poet establishes the occasion, the “reason” for writing a poem, and the actions behind writing a letter. Also, notice her use of reference to places both real (the “roads through Limay and Estelí”) and imagined (“the giant’s wedding”).

    Now listen to her reading of her poem, “Small Letter” (also pasted below!). Take a moment to consider how the two poems connect, how an act of writing, approached in a certain way, can produce a work of writing with a different tone. Now think of what goes into the writing of Girmay’s poems: the setting where they were written, the reason for their writing, the places and people that flowed through the poet’s mind, and, naturally, the writing process. Only when these elements and actions come together do we receive and read such beautiful verse.

    “Small Letter”
    By Aracelis Girmay

    “do not go, this day, the red
    of bridges, my little, stay

    beside me over
    the ruins of san francisco.

    go, but do not go
    from me, my one,

    my love, my very kin
    who I laughed with in our sleep

    every night, my dream
    beside your dream, for a year.

    wrecking ball despedida, wreck
    the great rooms in my chest & take

    my last song, but do not leave me
    on this earth, my one

    without my one. how would
    the hand ever live, if it knew

    it would never braid your hair
    again, or hold your face?

    it would get up & walk
    away forever then.

    one by one my breaths
    would go out looking: a procession

    of homeless dogs,
                                                       or clouds”


    Until next time!
    Chris


     
    7 months ago