Diving for Pearls
Remembering Mary Oliver
The world lost nature poet Mary Oliver on January 15, 2019. She died from lymphoma at 83. Memorials, sketches, photos, copies of her poems, original poems in her memory filled my computer inbox. Teary eyed, I savored each post about Oliver. This wonderful poet who lived fiercely and died unafraid was cherished by many.
Here’a a sketch of Mary Oliver by artist and poet Sandra Matucci, one (like so many) who grieved the poet’s passing. This portrait appeared on Matucci’s Blog, One Single Drop, two days after the poet’s death. She titled the work, She Changed the World in Word.
Mary Oliver wrote poems based on personal nature observation. She took detailed notes about what she saw, felt and heard during solitary morning walks. She walked near where she lived on Cape Cod and in Florida and then returned home to write. She wrote plain and simple English about the joy she found in the company of plants and animals. Why? Because the ordinary inspired her to live fully. Oliver’s poetry takes fierce delight in nature’s disclosures. Her words revel in the grandeur and wildness of nature, both the dark and light. The lessons she learned gave her courage, they made her unafraid, even curious about dying, knowing death stands on the other side of living. Her poems translate detailed nature observations into words with the power to shake the reader alive to the wild and wonderful in this mortal world. My favorite Oliver poem is a fine example:
When Death Comes: https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/102.html
For a brief literary and biographical overview of Oliver’s work and writer’s life, Poetry Foundation is a good source. The site includes text links to several of her poems. Check out:
Hearing a poet read her own work is a way to approach another layer of meaning in a poem. While Oliver guarded her privacy, she enjoyed reading her poems to audiences. YouTube contains numerous links to spoken word performances of Mary Oliver’s poems, they are by her and others. These links take you to two famous Oliver poems in her own voice:
Wild Geese: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv_4xmh_WtE
Oliver’s obituary appeared in major and regional newspapers, social media sites applauded her. Articles were written by the press, by poets and citizens, by theologians and counselors, by inspirational speakers. Here are two Mary Oliver obituaries, one from each side of the pond:
Mary Oliver, 83, Prize-Winning Poet to the Natural World, Is Dead, - New York Times, 1/17/19,
I was a life-long closet writer. I stopped writing in isolation when I retired. ModPo is where I got my start. This course helped me find a poetry community and introduced me to many of the writers and readers that support me as a poet today.
I’ve been taking ModPo since the class started six years ago. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Modern American Poetry. The teaching technique used is close-reading, a method favored by the program’s director, Al Filreis, a professor of English at University of Pennsylvania and Faculty Director of Kelly Writers House which hosts ModPo. The ten-week-class surveys Modern American poetry from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman up to the present. The core course covers representative poems by featured poets and begins each September.
For those who complete ModPo (like me), we poetry lovers don’t graduate out of the course. There’s ModPoPlus to keep us engaged. We study additional poems written by authors featured in the
curricula. And once we’ve finished ModPoPlus, there are special interest threads. This past fall, I joined The Global Study Group and Haiku Corner (I write haiku and thrived in this Discussion Group. An added plus, we wrote Renga together. The haiku party that started in September is still going strong. It's so much fun, we don't want to end it.)This free online MOOC is where I met many of the poets who belong to my online writing groups. Early on, when ModPo ended in the fall, our poetry friendships didn’t. We continued sharing our writing and supporting each other by forming closed online writers groups. Two of the ModPo-inspired writer groups I belong to are online, global and still flourishing four years later. I have writer friends from ten nations.
ModPo continues year round in a Slo-Po mode. That’s where the class is now, much slower paced, less intensive. Every year I learn about more great poems by modern American poets. As I expand my knowledge of the poets and their work, invariably I learn more tools of the craft for writing poetry.
ModPo keeps evolving. It’s a class that develops global poetry community and keeps expanding. ModPo is my-place-to-go, it’s where I learn about modern American poetry. Or it’s for anyone with an interest in learning more about English language poetry.
Students from all over the world bond over poetry and keep coming back. That's part of the course dynamic. I’m in contact with the ModPo-ers I met at the start, plus new ones who’ve joined each year. The class is open, diverse and free. To me, ModPo's success is a stellar example of democracy in action.
ModPo enrollment remains open. Once enrolled, you can sample the writing resources and poetry treasures. Or begin a self-paced study through the course. Students have free access to class materials, videos and emailed ModPo updates.
Here’s the link to enroll in ModPo.
Pearl Diving Editor Suggestion:
Trish Hopkinson publishes a great writer’s Blog that I subscribe to and it’s free. Hopkinson sends many fine suggestions for literary journals that consider unsolicited poetry submissions.
This week I learned about NaHaiWriMo, a project by Michael Dylan Welch that has been going strong for nine years. There’s a prompt a day to write a haiku that invites participants to post a haiku each day for the month of February. Haiku are so short, if you start now, you can catch up!
The short form of haiku is a personal favorite. If you haven’t written haiku before, I can say from experience that writing haiku is how you learn. Welch’s form of haiku is NOT syllable specific (5-7-5), rather he uses a not-to-exceed 17 syllables guideline. The haiku contains two contrasting images that are juxtaposed. If you become addicted to the Way of Haiku (as I am!), prompts continue year round.
Caution: If you participate in NaHaiWriMo with the intent to publish later, don’t submit what you write on the site because it is public. Many literary journals consider published what’s been posted on a Blog.
Here’s the link to Trish Hopkinson’s Blog :
Pearl Diving Editor Suggestion:
One of my online poetry groups writes haiku together. As a writer group, we wrote a tribute poem series in memory of the soul, gospel, jazz and blues singer Aretha Franklin, who recently died of cancer. The group’s tribute has been posted on a jazz blog called The Song Is… This music and literature site is administered by Marianne Szlyk, a US English professor and jazz devotee If you miss Aretha Franklin or are a lover of jazz, I invite you to check out and submit to:
A worthy group of independent writers run Sabotage Reviews, originator of Saboteur Awards. They are my kind of people, the real ones I want to get to know. If old fashioned Mom 'n Pops are your style too, this group might interest you. Check them out at: https://sabotagereviews.com/about/
This UK based writers' group runs a literary contest called Saboteur Awards. They cover small writer goings-on around the globe. I like supporting my favorite literary endeavors by casting a vote for them in the Saboteur Awards.
In case Saboteur Awards 2019 sounds like fun to you, I'm passing on information to participate. But keep in mind, I like small presses, poetry chapbooks and independent book stores. All things micro-bright are beautiful to me.
Do you have a special literary magazine or journal (online or hard cover) that captivates you? I voted for Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual for BEST MAGAZINE. Do you know someone you’d like to champion who published a short chapbook this year (after March 30, 2018)? You could nominate that book in the category of BEST POETRY PAMPHLET (less than 40 pages). Or that BEST ANTHOLOGY you read or that published you? Or how about that fine literary festival you attended - nominate it under BEST LITERARY FESTIVAL. Do you attend a SPOKEN WORD REGULAR NIGHT - nominate it. If you have a special spoken word artist you enjoy, nominate that person for BEST SPOKEN WORD ARTIST. And there are more categories....
I voted for my favorite literary endeavors, you can too. I wanted my vote to count and made sure to vote in at least three categories. The rules state: “A minimum of three nominations (i.e 1 nomination in at least 3 categories) are required for your entry to count. Only one entry per person (which often translates to per computer since this form is anonymous!)”
P.S. Hint! Hint! I cast my vote for FAVORITE MAGAZINE for Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual
April Is Poetry Month
April brings many opportunities to write a poem-a-day in the company of other like-minded poets. Groups meet online, the cost is free, participation is available to anyone who writes in English anywhere in the world! Having a writing goal, writing everyday by responding to a daily prompt delivered to your computer is one way to improve your writing. It’s how I stopped writing in isolation and connected me to a global network of writers. If you want to launch your writing into the world, participating in one of these projects may be good for you. Positive feedback and encouragement from other writers helps you flourish as a writer. I highly recommend learning and writing in community as a way to grow your craft. Writing is like everything in life - the more you do it, the better you get. As Christopher Merrill, Director of the Iowa Writers Group in the US often says, “Write On!”
The following list includes some online journals and writer groups offering 30-poems-in-30 days during April 2019:
Grilled Cheese- Subscribe at no cost to this online literary journal to participate. Daily writing prompts are posted at the start of each month. New prompts are offered each day of every month of the year. The journal has a flourishing literary community. Here’s a link to the April 2019 Calendar for daily writing prompts: http://www.toasted-cheese.com/a-pen-in-each-hand/march-2019-daily-writing-prompts/ Daily writing prompts are archived in a handy feature titled A Pen in Each Hand.
NaHaiWriMo - Editor Michael Dylan Welch selects a guest haiku writer each month to contribute a daily haiku prompt and the project continues throughout the year. Once you subscribe to the FaceBook Page, daily haiku prompts keep coming. Website page: http://www.nahaiwrimo.com/home/daily-prompts FaceBook page for April 2019, daily prompts provided by Devin Harrison: https://www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo
NaPoWriMo- Write 30-poems-in-30-days during April. Maureen Thorson, a poet living in Maine, started this poem-a-day writing project for the month of April in 2003. You can join the global version, called GloPoWriMo, it’s a kindred site. Both versions, Na/GloPoWriMo, share the same website. Daily prompts include links to good poems to read and a video-a-day. Here’s a hot link to Na/GloPoWriMo prompts and discussion: http://www.napowrimo.net
NaNoWriMo Camp- The same group that sponsors writing 1,000-words-a-day-for-a-month on your novel during November now offers a poetry, non-fiction or fiction “camp” version of their word-count-goals for daily writing in the months of April. Link to sign up: https://campnanowrimo.org/dashboard
PADS Challenge- Join a month long poetry party facilitated by Robert Brewer at Writer’s Digest Magazine, Brewer is the magazine’s poetry editor of this worthy magazine for writers of all genres. Look for the Pads Challenge on the magazine’s website under the tab, Editors Blogs, then select, Poetic Asides: https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides
If you have recommendations for a 30/30 for the month of April, please pass along to:Ingrid Bruck, Network and Resource Editor Between These Shores reader suggestions received will be posted under “Diving for Pearls”!
The Wonder Code:
three baskets of fresh produce....haiku fit in-between
I spent a day canning on my kitchen. In down-time between tasks, I read Scott Mason’s book, The Wonder Code: Discover the Way of Haiku. The book provides a new path to understanding haiku. It was deceptively simple to read, best taken in short bits because I often wanted time to stop and ponder before I read more.
The book consists of five essays on the essential ingredients of haiku: 1- Think Small, 2- Come To Your Senses, 3-Feel the Moment, 4- Prepare For Surprise and 5- Only Connect. Each essential haiku ingredient is exemplified by a selection of haiku that demonstrate the principal (EX: small/senses/now-ness/ surprise/connection). Representative modern haiku follow each essay. The book includes a "gallery" of haiku taken from Heron's Nest archives. There is also a collection of Mason's haiku, they demonstrate how he walks the talk. Modern haiku references at the end of the book are excellent.
According to Mason, wonder derives from nature and fine haiku expresses this wonder. He is a follower of the wonder code, one who lives The Way of Haiku. Mason writes of British scholar R. H. Blyth who coined the term, The Way of Haiku: “<writing daily haiku> is also a way of living.” Mason says this describes his personal haiku practice, it’s one that I share. He contrasts haiku from eastern and western traditions, says he prefers haiku with an eastern world view, as does The Heron’s Nest. "Thinking Small" in the eastern sense is celebrated in this book. He says a good haiku combines "fragment" and “phrase” to culminate in a “Eureka" moment. Mason describes these haiku dynamics as follows: "<fragment & phrase> act as kindling, while the gap between them serves as oxygen; this mix, will combust as sensed experience in the predisposed reader's mind." His explanation helped clarify why I am drawn to reverence when I read haiku.
Haijin Scott Mason works on The Heron's Nest editorial team. I found his bookilluminating. After reading the book, I felt like I’d spent the day with my new-best friend!
Links to find out more about The Wonder Code and Scott Mason:
The WonderCode: https://www.theheronsnest.com/order.html
Haiku: Poetry of Focus with Scott Mason: https://vimeo.com/165512364
Here are some links to my favorite haiku and senryu journals:
Contemporary Haibun Online: https://contemporaryhaibunonline.com/pages_all/aboutthisjournal.html
Kokako Haiku Journal:
The Heron’s Nest:
Under the Basho:
Where Do I Submit What I Write, for Publication?
That’s a matchmaker question. Until you find a match with your writing style, you will get a lot of discouraging rejections. And if you pay entry fees, you will be even more disheartened.
When beginning to submit, I recommend you select journals that don’t charge a fee. Be aware that the majority of your submissions won’t be accepted for publication. That’s true for even established writers. Besides the financial cost, rejections can knock down your
confidence in yourself as a writer. The percentage of acceptances varies per magazine. The higher the bar, the greater the number of rejections. You want to submit “smart” to have the greatest chance of success. Persistence pays off. One day you’ll get published and it will be be thrilling.
Whatever literary journal you submit to, it’s a good practice to read what they publish. It will make you savvy about the magazine’s style and
preferences. Reading poems is a win-win—it’s as good for you as writing is and it’s the only way to gage if your work bears similarities to what a venue publishes. If the journal is post-modern with a preference for hybrid, this will notbe the best place to send a nature poem, haiku or sonnet for consideration.
Adele Geraghty, Editor of Between These Shores Books, passed on this friendly hint. Editors like the courtesy of a cover letter. It can be as simple as: “I submit for your consideration… & thank you for reading.” Remember to do it, good manners can open the door.
The list below contains some high-quality online literary journals that are new-writer-friendly. They are open for submissions and do not charge a submission fee. Good luck in finding a home for what you write. Do your homework and keep writing and submitting!
A Summer Writing Conference: OR How to Keep Magic in Your Writing
I attended a week-long writing summer conference hosted by International Women’s Writing Guild, for women writers of all ages. IWWG Summer Conference was held in Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania. This year we met from July 12-19, 2019.
I highly recommend attending a week long writing conference like this one. It’s terrific for learning the writer’s craft, networking and developing a writing community.
People travel from all over the world to attend IWWG. This conference may (or not) be for you. A different writer conference might suit you better: 1- if you’re a male writer, 2- if you prefer a different class format, 3- if you don’t share IWWG’s values, or 4- if you’re not from the Northeast USA and want a writing conference closer to home.
For those interested in hearing what made IWWG conference so special, continue reading.
The IWWG has been holding summer conferences for 42 years. I've been going for fifteen and keep coming back for the writing magic. This is my tribe, my primary face-to-face writer support community. I found my first writing teachers there. Guild summer conferences never disappoint. I always bring home new writing skills, always leave inspired.
The summer conference may be the biggest annual event but the holds regional conferences in the US year round. Membership includes an active global village for online writer connection and support anywhere in the world. The organization offers in-depth writer webinars for distance learning. I’ve taken three-- post modern narrative, pitching your memoir; beyond the writing margins-- and plan to take more.
One unique aspect of IWWG classes is that teachers come as teachers AND learners. Teachers attend each other's classes with students; teachers write and read what they write along with students. Students come at all levels of writing skill mastery. No writing portfolio required— the only criteria is a love for writing and a desire to learn. The guild’s philosophy is that if you write, call yourself a writer.
At IWWG, I like the rub of novice and professional, of nuts and bolts on woo-woo, the dynamics of cross pollination when you mix writers of all different levels, abilities and backgrounds. The writing guild gives every writer positive feedback. It’s all about positive reinforcement, the truism that the more you write, the better you get. Students write in class. Some students read what they write. When you read, others listen for a writer’s best words and repeat back only her words. No comment. No critique. Guild teacher, Dorothy Randall Gray, calls this giving ’word seeds' to the writer. Feedback and support comes to the writer in her own words. This kind of positivity gives a writer a draft to build on, edit and polish. It works for me. Each summer, I bring home ‘poem seeds’ to harvest.
From Saturday through Thursday, five daily class sessions start at 8:30am and end at 5:30pm. Opening and closing ceremonies convene and end the conference. Evenings include open mike readings; social time follows until 11pm. Most participants stay in dorm rooms on campus and eat in the college cafeteria. A Quiet Room is available for those who opt to write instead of taking a class session. Evenings include open mike readings of what we wrote in classes. Writers with books sell them at two book fairs. Optional Salons are offered on Monday evening. On Wednesday evening before open mike, new play scripts are staged and performed by Play Lab students. Day ends at Red Door Lounge with the opportunity to visit and network over wine and cheese.
I could have skipped from teacher to teacher as I often do but this year I didn’t. I kept one class session open, selected four teachers and went to the same ones each day. I took six-days of class with Susan Tiberghian (memoir), June Gould (poetry), Myra Shapiro (poetry) and Eunice Scarfe (post-modern best practices).
That’s my IWWG writing conference report in a nutshell. I’m holding open the week after 4th of July in 2020, just in case anyone decides to join me next summer.
How can you meet other writers? How can you become a member of a writer community that supports you? You must meet other writers to form writing connections. Not everyone has a Kitchen Table Writers Group, library writer group or poetry open mike available. If you don’t have these kinds of local writer resources, others can be found online.
The writers I met in ModPo classes have developed into my primary online writer community. ModPo is the group that helped me find my own writer community. My community of writers supports me and my writing. I’m a short form poet and enjoy writing haiku. At ModPo, I met other poets inspired by nature who enjoy writing haiku. We formed a closed writer group of people from six nations, write collaborative rengay (a haiku variant) and became online friends. I‘m a member two closed online groups that originated at ModPo. Both are five years old and thriving. ModPo also gave me a writing buddy. We exchange pieces of writing weekly using GoogleDoc. This helps to keep both of us on-track, helps with the process of revision and motivates us to keep on writing.
I highly recommend ModPo as starting place. It’s public, free and open. Students are part of a global writer community that’s huge. With over 30,000 students, everyone talking at once, the course can be overwhelming at first. I found that joining a smaller discussion group on the ModPo site can be a good way to form personal connections with others, ModPo goes year round. The highlight of ModPo starts September 7, 2019, a ten-week course on Modern & Contemporary American Poetry. Now would be a great time to join ModPo.
I encourage investigating a variety of writer communities. Look for a good match to your style, theme and technique of writing. You may wish join an established online writer community that is small. Or start with a big group like ModPo and join a small discussion group with similar interests.
Attached is a list of the groups that form my online poetry community. I’m a member of all of them. It’s selective, offered as a guideline and a place to begin searching for your own writer community. Add or subtract from this list as you wish.
Where Can I Submit My Nature Writing?
Do you write nature poems, stories or essays? You may be experiencing difficulty finding publishers of nature writing. I know I did. Rest assured, you are not alone. Renowned poet, Mary Oliver, wrote fine nature poetry yet publishers and even many critics treated her work as less-important than writing by post-modern authors.
Writers write best about what they cherish. You know this. You’re a nature lover, one who appreciates the wonders of the natural world. This understanding transforms you into a nature witness and defender. You acknowledge forest bathing as a Muse without apology. You depend on nature as a source of strength, draw on its energy and wouldn’t have it any other way.
A prejudice still exists about the dubious merit of nature inspired writing. But you write about nature because it offers a well-spring of creativity and close observation of the planet leads to the discovery of details that enrich and enliven your writing. You appreciate the value nature provides and refuse to give it up just because it’s not the current fashion.
Changing trends favor nature writing. Rest assured there’s a growing market for it. A sub-set of journals seeks nature writing of witness and a celebration of place and all that inhabit it, animal, vegetable and mineral. They publish nature poetry, fiction, non-fiction and art. Some calls for for eco-literature include: climate change, animals, endangered species, clean water, animal rights, healthy food. If you write about subjects like these, check out online literary journals that share a passion for nature and preservation of the environment.
I recommend an essay on this subject titled, “Not Your Grandfather’s Nature Writing: The New "Nature" Journals” by Andrea Nolan. https://fictionwritersreview.com/essay/not-your-grandfathers-nature-writing-the-new-nature-journals/
For a list of eco-literary journals, see: “ Literary Outlets for Environmental Writing.” Included is a list of 64 publishers of eco-lit writing. Literary Outlets for Environmental Writing
As a writer of haiku and short nature poems, I know how difficult it can be to find nature-friendly publishers. Below is a short list of online literary journals that favor nature writing:
BER: Blue Earth Review: MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITY, MANKATO’S LITERARY MAGAZINE. Poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, art. http://blueearthreview.mnsu.edu/submissions/
ecotone: reimagining place. Magazine publishes writing and art that reimagine place, explores the ecotones between landscapes, literary genres, scientific and artistic disciplines, modes of thought. https://ecotonemagazine.org/submissions/
The Fourth River: A Journal Of Nature And Place-Based Writing Published By The Chatham University MFA Program Poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and visual art, that explore the relationship between humans and their environments, both natural and built, urban, rural or wild. https://4thriver.submittable.com/submit
The Future Fire: Social Political & Speculative Cyber-Fiction. Short stories, poems, art. http://futurefire.net/guidelines/index.html
"Hidden Meanings: Creative Fiction, Non-fiction, and Facts".
November 15, 2019 - December 31, 2019
A free online course from The University of Iowa.
Enrollment is open for "Hidden Meanings: Creative Fiction, Non-fiction, and Facts.” If you have never taken a MOOC from The International Writing Program (the IWP) at the University of Iowa, here is your opportunity. This online class is free and available over the internet to anyone anywhere in the world who writes English. The only prerequisite is English; course reading and writing is conducted in English. You will meet students from other countries working on their English language skills. You will encounter beginner to experienced writers, and life-learners, like me. Students are all ages. You engage and learn from people around the globe.
I’ve taken several terrific IWP courses from the University of Iowa and highly recommend them. Classes are instructor led; teachers are excellent. Respect is the class culture. These classes have broadened my knowledge of literature. I’ve learned writing tools that I continue to use and have improved my writing. I value the global connections I’ve made and the understanding I’ve gained by interacting with writers from different cultures and backgrounds.
"Hidden Meanings", a MOOC (massive online learning course), begins on November 15, 2019. A teacher-team leads classes. The course runs from November 15, 2019 - December 31, 2019.” The curriculum remains open for self-paced learning until March 15, 2020. "Hidden Meanings” is presented by The International Writing Program (the IWP) at the University of Iowa, with generous support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the US Department of State. Why that funder? An informed electorate is essential to the success of Jeffersonian democracy. The community building component of this class supports that objective. University of Iowa classes writing classes are truly an example of democracy in action. Democracy depends on the strength of enlightened people who take facts and make up their own minds.
Do you think writing is political? I do. We live in the post modern era. Information inundates us. Can you feel the overload? I do. Can you tell good information from bad? I struggle with that. The internet can be a friend that breaks down borders, opens communication and creates connections between people all over the world. But it can also be an enemy when it serves up fake news, misinformation and disinformation as facts. I struggle through the plethora of misinformation and disinformation. If you are like me, you resent anyone trying to recruit you based on self-serving lies. If you are like me, you want all the information you gather to be the ‘real stuff’, so you can make up your own mind. I look forward to learning techniques to uncover the truth, evaluate the reliability of sources and determine which information is factual.
Who Publishes Inspirational Writing?
Does your writing style express positive values? Are you a truth seeker? Do you write with the goal to heal? Are you informed by formal religion, Eastern or Western? Are you inspired by the wonders of nature? The supernatural? By beauty. Or meditation? The mystical?
If your writing is inspirational, you may feel outnumbered and obsolete. You don’t fit into the post-modern mainstream. A post-modern worldview — one that’s existential— predominates current art, music and literature. Post-mod is the elephant in the room.
I am comforted by the thought that the ‘elephant’ has a positive counterpart in “hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” offered up by Emily Dickinson. It’s good news for inspirational writers that Emily’s abstract bird has living brothers and sisters. Some publishers value the positive and support inspirational writers who build on the positive and act as change agents with words in the world.
Yes, despite the popularity of post-modern writing, interest in spiritual writing and inspiration continues. Some literary publications and presses seek inspirational writing. They may be small in number compared to the post-mod crowd but they produce high quality literature and art.
Positive value publishers are difficult to locate because they are scattered, small candles on corner shelfs and under bushel baskets. This is because they tend to come “slant” toward the positive (per E. Dickinson). They are outsiders and don’t gather in a group.
If you are a positive value writer, you have to negotiate between two inspirational camps to find publishers in your venue. The camps come in two divisions: formal and general. The formal religion division covers spirituality that emanates from a traditional religion. The generalist division sets claim to all other spiritual alternatives outside organized religion: nature, healing, beauty, supernatural and mystical-spirituality…
Writers who adhere to a formal religion maintain their roots in their organized religion. A writer from inside the fold tend to stick with their own and search for publishers within their religious tradition. For writing within a spiritual tradition, the search for publication is two-pronged: 1- search the specific religion (EX: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism…), 2- extend the search beyond dogma to “inspirational writing”.
I’m in the second camp which contains a cross-disciplinary group of inspirational generalists. I (and spiritual writer peeps like me) flock to literary journals that are prophets of positivity. Our writing champions positivity in all races, creeds and colors. Disclosure: the resource list below of “Inspirational Writing (Secular)” is highly subjective— I list my current personal favorites; it reflective of my alignment with the Generalist Division.
In my experience, formal religions tend to address insiders and exclude outsiders. Why? Because organized religion inclines to circle the wagons and address their chosen. For this reason, ‘formal religion’ publishers may not make a suitable writing match for an inspirational writer with a renaissance appetite for diversity (like me). But also consider that there is much overlapping. Some journals and presses belong to both camps.
I already confessed that formal religion is not my camp. My bias alines with the generalist camp. I think that an inspirational writer may (or not) believe in God, that spirituality is what matters most to an inspirational writer. I champion spiritual writing that is positive, inspirational and life-changing. These are the reasons I prefer a broad reading audience of more than one religious group and multiple cultural orientations.
The point of this column was to crack open the door to possibilities for publication of inspirational writing. Unfortunately, the more you broaden a search for inspirational literary publishers, the narrower the field becomes. Each individual writer has to decide what works best. Below are some links to good online journals and presses to check out. Good luck!
INSPIRATIONAL WRITING (SECULAR)
Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal - family friendly, a magazine promoting inspirational and uplifting poetry no matter the topic. https://abpoetryjournal.com/submissions/
Ginosko Literary Journal: Grace Spirit Vision - between literary vision and spiritual reality, the recognition of truth from experience. http://www.ginoskoliteraryjournal.com/guidelines.htm
Halcyon Days: Promoting the peaceful things in life- online/print magazine. Editor Monique Berry (Canada) seeks poetry and fiction that is peaceful. http://halcyondaysmagazine.blogspot.com
Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk- inspirational literature and art that nurtures the spirit http://www.notyourmothersbreastmilk.com/about-us
Parabola: The Magazine of Myth And Tradition - explore quest for meaning. https://parabola.org
Peacock Journal - online & print. Devoted to all things beautiful. Poem/fic/non-fiction. http://peacockjournal.com/guidelines/
Poppy Road Review - poems and flash fiction between the cracks that linger and haunt https://poppyroadreview.blogspot.com/p/about-editor.html
Ruminate: A Contemplative Magazine Chewing the Mysteries of Life. A contemplative magazine for spiritual travelers. https://www.ruminatemagazine.com/pages/about-ruminate
Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing - accepts new and previously published work on the theme of healing (emotional, physical, spiritual, community. https://www.snapdragonjournal.com/submit.html
Soul-Lit: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry - the Soul-Lit team created this online journal to counter the scarcity of venues for spiritual poetry. http://www.soul-lit.com/spiritualPoetry.html
Tikkum: The Prophetic Jewish, Interfaith & Secular Voice - to heal, repair and transform the world. interfaith art and literature for social change guided by spiritual and ethical values. https://www.tikkun.org/about-tikkun
Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature - non-sectarian, non-dogmaticpoetry, prose, and art. Bi-annual. Fostering Peace Through Literature & Art. http://tiferetjournal.com/submit-your-writings/
INSPIRATIONAL WRITING (RELIGIOUS)
Image Journal: Art, Faith, Mystery - quarterly journal. Grapples with religious faith in Western tradition (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) https://imagejournal.org/journal/submit/
Labyrinthine Passages - prose and poetry. faith inspired work. raw emotion that cries out to God. https://labyrinthinepassages.weebly.com/submissions.html
Letters Journal - creative writing that connects belief, faith and spirituality with art. http://www.lettersjournal.com/submit/
My Macberet - Weekly Blog by Erika Dreifus - contains Jewish literary news and commentary. Free to subscribe. https://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/my-machberet/
The Other Journal - faith and spirituality in the Christian tradition https://theotherjournal.com/submissions/
The review review: View on Publishing Flesh Made Word: Five Lit Magazines Defined by Christian Faith~ by Chris Wiewiora. http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/flesh-made-word-five-lit-mags-defined-christ
The Uncertainty Club: A Magazine of Zen & the Arts - Zen koans embrace our vital unsteadiness in the boundary space between Zen and creative process https://uncertainty.club/about/
Chicken Soup for the Soul - open for submission of inspirational, true stories about ordinary people having extraordinary experiences that open the heart and rekindle the spirit. https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story
Inspiritus Press - Canadian. Inspiritus, means “breathe” and contains the word for “spirit”—to be filled with the Muses, to be filled with the gods or God. The logo represents a breath of air, a gust of wind, the winds of change, and a spirit, a force, that carves its way forward. https://www.facebook.com/inspirituspress/
Orison Books - spiritually engaged poetry, fiction and non-fiction. They seek to publish work that has a transcendent aesthetic effect on the reader, and reading it can itself be a spiritual experience. https://orisonbooks.com/submission-guidelines/
The Christian Science Monitor - nonprofit news organization that publishes daily articles in electronic format as well as a weekly print edition. Daily newspaper was established in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Inspirational writers may wish to check out The Home Forum and People Making a Difference paper sections which consider unsolicited submissions. https://www.csmonitor.com/About/Contributor-guidelines
poets.org published a list of major poets who died in 2019: In Memoriam 2019
https://poets.org/text/memoriam-2019 The following list includes links to work by:
In thinking about these silenced voices, I realize how sad I am for the loss of poets who inhabited my personal writing and reading world in 2019. Until they died, we inhabited the same literary world. They won’t produce new work in 2020. What they wrote made the literary world richer. These notables—ones who inspire my art—write no more. Suddenly, we no longer occupy the same present. I stay in the present but they are thrust in the past. We, the living writers, have been left behind and feel bereft. We confront a future without our mentors’ voices singing in harmony with our work and lives. We are consigned to stand on their shoulders, as we do on those of the ancestors.
Mourning the loss of poets happens on both a global and local level. This year I grieve two special poetry friends from England who were part of my personal writing universe: Reuben Woolley and Rachel Sutcliffe.
Reuben Woolley, born in England, lived in Spain, died Dec. 1, 2019. Reuben was an activist editor and modernist poet of witness. One of my poetry friends, S.E. Ingraham, wrote this about Reuben: “He was only 67 (too young by far, in my view). In any case - I know there are others that have written for his site, I Am Not A Silent Poet, so I am posting the news in a few places. I for one am deeply saddened at Reuben's loss - not only a remarkable poet and fair editor but a fine human being and advocate for social justice. He will be missed.”
For more information about this poet, his life and writing philosophy, see the Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Reuben Woolley, of 9/8/18: https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2018/09/08/wombwell-rainbow-interviews-reuben-woolley/
Here are two hot links to online memorials for Reuben Woolley:
Tributes paid to innovative poet and protest verse editor Reuben Woolley
A Sad Day: Rest in Peace Reuben Woolley, your voice will never be silenced…~ by Jamie Dedes https://jamiededes.com/2019/12/04/i-am-not-a-silent-poet-this-wednesday-writing-prompt-in-honor-of-reuben-woolley/
Rachel Sutcliffe was a great loss to the UK and English speaking haiku community. This gifted haijin lost her battle to illness. Below is one of Rachel’s fine haiku from a recent Tweet by MyHaikuPond:
In case you missed MyHaikuPond's Tweet
Today's Find #2:
I can’t hide
Rachel Sutcliffe (1977-2019)
Prune Juice, July 2018
Rachel lived in England. Her Blog, Project Words, remains alive online and contains some of her haiku: https://projectwords11.wordpress.com/about/
Here’s a link in memory of Rachel Sutcliffe:
May the memory of the poets we lost in 2019 live on in our words!
Why All the Buzz about Ekphrastic Poetry?
There’s an upsurge of popularity in ekphrastic poetry. Lately I’ve noticed more published poems inspired by art and photos. I’ve noticed frequent, new ekphrastic poems appearing in many online literary journals. This device was not only used by classic poets—many modern poets embrace the form.
What is ekphrasis? A good place to find a concise definition is from Poetry Foundation. Here’s what they say:
Ekphrasis: “Description” in Greek. An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. A notable example is “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which the poet John Keats speculates on the identity of the lovers who appear to dance and play music, simultaneously frozen in time and in perpetual motion. (From The Poetry Foundation: Glossary of Poetic Terms Ekphrasis | Poetry Foundation )
To learn more about ekphrastic poetry, I took an online webinar last fall that was instructive and fun. The art and poetry class was titled, “Accurately Uncertain Things: Writing Through Georgia O’Keeffe’s Art”, taught by Colorado (US) poet and teacher, Marj Hahne. Marj offers hands-on classes where students practice what they learn by writing. I’ve taken many of Marj’s great classes in the last fifteen years, though she’s been doing this with success for twenty. To check our Marj, here’s a link: http://marjhahne.com/webinars/
Rattle Poetry is a high-profile, high-quality journal that publishes online poetry in digital and hard copy. You can subscribe to Rattle at https://www.rattle.com for a daily free poem in your inbox. Rattle pays attention to popular trends and that includes ekphrasis. They hold a monthly contest called Ekphrastic Challenge. Two monthly winners receive a prize of $100. Here’s the link to Rattle’s Challenge: Ekphrastic Challenge
To learn how ekphrastic art and poetry works, select a piece of artwork that speaks to you. For example, I’ll select Albert Altdorfer’s painting of a green spruce tree so grand and lofty, the canvas can’t hold the whole tree - the draped evergreen branches dwarf a mountain range and sky in the distance, a speck of a man sits underneath the tree. First I brainstorm words, colors, feelings, inside and outside of the frame. Next, research the painting and take more notes. Then I do a short free-write, timed for twenty minutes. Don’t let pen leave paper to make cross-outs or corrections. Presto: you have a first draft, a starting place for an ekphrastic poem…
Combining art and poetry makes good cultural entertainment. Many art associations and art museums hold annual ekphrastic shows and exhibitions that combine art and poetry in tandem. Here’s a global sampling of some places holding annual ekphrastic shows: Wickford Art Association (Rhode Island US), Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center (Pennsylvania US) Randolph College’s Maier Museum of Art (Virginia US), Marshall Arts Center (Minnesota US), Cultural Center of Cape Cod (Massachusetts US), Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (UK), Artlyst in association with The Poetry Society (London UK), The Hamblin Centre (UK), Boghossian Foundation (Brussels, Belgium), Kunstmuseum (The Hague, Netherlands). Check the What’s Happening calendar in your area—you’ll discover new local art treasures and inspiration for ekphrasis.
On Post Modern Writing
Politics and the human costs of abuse tend to grate heavily on poets and writers. We become word seekers of peace, human rights and social justice. These convictions cross over into our writing. These kinds of attitudes invigorate post modern writing and create poetry of witness.
You can tell when post modern trends have happened to you when your writing takes on some (few or many) of these post modern writing characteristics:
According to the Prezi.com model above, post modern writing happens with “The mixing of actual historical events with fictional events without clearly defining what is factual and what is fictional.” For more information, see: https://prezi.com/3gqkbsq6-nhd/techniques-used-in-postmodern-literature/
At some point, “art for arts sake” can stop driving what creates and characterizes your writing style. You slip into post modern writing, as did The Dark Room Collective and Cave Canem. This kind of writing phenomenon exemplifies post modern literature in action. DRC, a Black Lit movement developed in the US in 1987, changed the style of many Black authors to post modern. “Elbow Room,”a great article about Black DRC writers, appears in Harvard Magazine. https://harvardmagazine.com/2016/03/elbow-room
What distinguishes poetry of witness from art-for-art’s-sake writing is the writer’s use of post modern writer techniques. Ann Kesner, past editor of Poetry Breakfast (closed), did this recently when she openedPoetsAndArtistsForPete.com, a new literary journal venue that opposes the “division and hate… flooding into our world when Trump came onto the political scene.” Ann’s new US literary journal includes “a grassroots community of poets, artists, musicians and crafters who support Pete Buttigieg <for President> through their art.” Her journal opposes Trump and supports a more democratic way. Ann Kesner believes that poetry builds community, she wants a kinder world to live in so she’s helping to build it with her new poetry journal.
For those who want to learn more about post modern writing techniques, I suggest you read Ramen Sharma and Dr. Preety Chaudhary’s article, “Common Themes and Techniques of Postmodern Literature of Shakespeare.” Link: https://www.ripublication.com/ijepa/ijepav1n2_11.pdf. Or the Wikipedia article on Postmodern Literature. Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_literature
If you are a writer with a post modern hue and the intent to make the world a better place through
literature, who will publish what you write? Where can you submit that poetry of witness, current events or politics? Check out this Blogpost by Trisch Hopkinson: “21 lit mags/journals to send your current event poems.”https://trishhopkinson.com/2018/03/30/22-lit-mags-journals-to-send-your-current-event-poems/ Note: literary market changed a lot since then. Even though the post is a year old and outdated, it’s a good one. On Hopkinson’s list, I highly recommend: New Verse News, Poets Reading the News, Social Justice Poetry and Writers Resist.
Rattle Poetry also publishes a current events weekly feature called “Poets Respond”, with subject limited to news of the week. https://www.rattle.com/respond/
Here’s wishing you luck getting your post modern writing published!
The Way of Haiku
Haiku is a simple, enjoyable short form to write. Anyone who can write three short lines can produce a haiku. Think: two juxtaposed images, up to seventeen syllables and you have written an English Language haiku. Some people with an appreciation for Zen and Buddhism find that haiku is meant for them. Others like me with an affinity for nature, find a writing door in haiku.
Writing a haiku-a-day as a writing practice was coined as “The Way of Haiku” by haiku writer and scholar, William Higginson. Some reasons to consider the Way of Haiku as a writng and spiritual practice include: 1-The Way of Haiku takes place in “now”. Focus on now removes yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s fears. 2-The practice is writing haiku is positive. When you do something often, you experience a multiplier effect. Positivity engenders more positivity, this is the principal of the dynamics of gratitude as a way of living. 3- Haiku broadens connections between people and people, between people and nature. Connections alleviate isolation. Sharing haiku about good things that happen can be a good attitude adjuster that brings people together and makes them happier. For more on haiku as a spiritual practice, here’s a link to an article, “The Haiku Path,” by Mercy Center Burlingame: http://www.mercy-center.org/PDFs/EW/HaikuPath.pdf
The haiku form developed in the East and traveled West. Classic writers like Issa, Basho and Buson led the way. Haiku focuses on the present moment and the minimal. “Now” is critical element that a good haiku captures. This celebration of now takes the writer out of preoccupation with self-involvement, worries and regrets (past dissatisfactions or future uncertainties). Because you write what you observe in present time, you stay alert all day for flashes of beauty. Dissatisfaction and fear of uncertainty decreases. When you mix in a tad of inspiration, what you write emerges as haiku. Or senryu, a modern haiku about human emotion. And when you set yourself the goal to write haiku each day, what happens is that haiku moves from an attitude of gratitude to a state of personal happiness.
The Way of Haiku has grown in current popularity. Many who adopt the practice have published personal recommendations. Below are links to work by Way of Haiku practitioners that explain how writing daily haiku becomes a way of living and changes you:
1- TED Talk of June 24, 2019 by Daryl Chen: “I wrote haiku every day for a week—here’s what I learned”. Chen reports that daily haiku fired his creativity, sweetened his days and brought him closer to others. He claims it made him happier, more productive and a more effective leader. https://ideas.ted.com/i-wrote-a-haiku-every-day-for-a-week-heres-what-i-learned/
2- Tyler Knott Gregson, poet and Buddhist, has been writing haiku daily for six years. He explains how the process changed him in, “Writing a haiku a day changed my life,” an article in Huffington Post, December 6, 2017. Chris makes this point, “…doing this, every single day, has made me see love absolutely everywhere. When you spend this much time looking for something, you start finding it. Once you start finding it, you start finding it everywhere…”. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/viral-poetry-woo_b_8535874?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAACSbHOyxMsqXQYm3sBAIWljXl5eb1clvvRK3IGlWME9ON7QbxYLWQLqo_Gr1I9ea8KQBYozCStG7QuydH5SY0UYlS_o9s6zG9tiq9zuxfR8LMchSz5pjSwhE7evUATrNk7XjleOFn6N0-qtuh-C9_KCUr458uqXBpzL-jzJLMaO
3- Chris Billebeau’s Blog contains, “Writing a 3-line poem every day for a year: Yvonne Whitelaw’s Quest,” written by a former medical resident who wrote a haiku every day for a year. https://chrisguillebeau.com/daily-haiku-yvonne-whitelaw/
4- In “Imaginary Birdfeeders, Real Birds: Notes on Haiku” by David Graham, this college professor explains about how he found haiku, much ignored by academia, and why he writes it: David Graham's POETIC LICENSE 2020 January - Verse-Virtual
The poetry of Haiku has many admirable qualities that have attracted modern writers. Famous ones - like Ezra Pound, Richard Wright, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Cid Corman, Jane Reichhold, Marlene Mountain. Or homespun - like me. And maybe you.
I’ll end with a select list of some good haiku journals. The best way to learn how to write haiku is by reading the best haiku out published there. May you find lots of great haiku in these journals. And may reading fine haiku may inspire you to write some your own.
Modern Haiku. http://www.modernhaiku.org
Prune Juice. https://prunejuice.wordpress.com/submissions/
The Heron’s Nest. The Heron's Nest - Volume XXII, Number 1: March 2020
Words Words Words: Online Writing Resources
When you write, you orchestrate in words. Many online resources are available to help you.
After your first draft is finished, it’s time to edit. You review every word and image in the poem. Trim off the fat. Make each word earn its place. You ask yourself, Are the verbs muscular? The words, latinate? Can you hear music? Does light dance in the words? Can you taste, smell and touch them? Do the words convey magic? Or trip your tongue and make you stumble? Have you found the perfect words? Until you do, the writing is not finished.
There’s a lot of online resources to help with better word choices. These tools are sources for nous, adjectives and verbs with spark and heft. Use these online tools to pare down your words, find the core of your work, showcase the dance, the fight, the flash of ah-hah and Oh!
Online word writing tools:
Use an online dictionary to check out a word’s meaning. Merriam Webster and Cambridge English Dictionary are two good ones. Example: What’s the meaning of the word “rain”?
Use a synonym or antonym finder to avoid word repetition and keep your word selections fresh. A synonym is a word with a similar meaning; antonym means the opposite, a great resource when you are seeking juxtaposition. I often use Merriam Webster Thesaurus and thesaurus.com. Some writers I know favor PowerThesaurus. Example: Search for synonyms of the word “rain.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/rain. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/rain. https://www.powerthesaurus.org/rain/synonyms
Visual dictionaries are great for obtaining specific vocabulary associated with a word. Say you are writing an extended metaphor about a concrete object, go to Visuwords Online Graphical Dictionary. Example: rain https://visuwords.com/rain Or search VisualDictionaryOnline. http://www.visualdictionaryonline.com/ Note: this program requires AdobeFlash to play.
OneLook is a tool to help you find associated words, phrases and near-rhymes by typing the word in the search box, adding an asterisk (before/after). Word associations can deepen your writing. Example !: rain* Yields: https://onelook.com/?w=rain*&ls=a. Example 22: *rain Results: https://onelook.com/?w=rain*&ls=a
Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings. These words help add layers of meaning to what you are writing and broaden the scope of your writing. Check out : Homonyms: 150 words with more than one meaning. http://home.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/homonym_main.htm
Wordnik. Use Wordnik to shake up your word choices. This resource contains noun/verb forms, meaning, synonyms, etymologies, literary examples. Example: rain. https://www.wordnik.com/words/rain
For pure etymology, a review of linguistic history and usage examples, a go-to source for many is Online Etymology Dictionary. Finding suitable word associations can add depth and multiple meanings to your words. Example: rain. https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=rain
Rhyming words or near-rhymes are necessary for many types of form poems. RhymeZone is a great source for rhymes, near rhymes, phrases and homophones. Example: rain. https://www.rhymezone.com/r/rhyme.cgi?Word=rain&typeofrhyme=perfect&org1=syl&org2=l&org3=y
The search for rain includes ten different lists by word length (1-10 syllables).
Working with a form like a sestina, you need good words that will play off each other. To generate some words for a start, pull out one of your failed poems and enter the text into a Word Cloud Generator. WordItOut is a good one. The program generates a picture map of the most used words. To see how this works, place the text in the search box. Example: Take the text of Mary Oliver’s Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me and generate a word cloud. https://worditout.com/word-cloud/create
Want to add the surreal or magical realism to your words? Try incorporating seven or more words produced by RandomWordGenerator. https://randomwordgenerator.com/.
Does something you wrote appear tired or pedestrian? Want a mod-feel and post modern snap? Take a failed draft and spice up the nouns with the N+7 Procedure of Oulipo, a program that substitutes each noun with the seventh word below it in the dictionary to create a startling word effect. You may wish to work some of the generated words into your finished draft. See: http://presurfer.blogspot.com/2013/01/poetry-generator-n7-procedure.html
Do you want more word tools? Trisch Hopkinson wrote, 10 of the coolest online word tools for writers/poets. https://trishhopkinson.com/2019/11/09/10-of-the-coolest-online-word-tools-for-writers-poets/
Online Museum Collections and Virtual Tours
At a time when traveling has been curtailed by the corona virus, there are ways for writers to get inspired without leaving home. Museums and galleries worldwide often provide an online art presence. Virtual visitors can tap into a virtual gallery and tour exhibitions produced by cultural institutions. The museum websites provide a rich source for ekphrasis and go-to places for visual graphics and sensory details to enrich your writing.
This is a select list and contains some of my favorite online visual resources for art, history and culture (classic and modern). When seeking an ekphrasis prompt or art, science and archeology images for your writing, check out these.
Online Museums & Tours (Worldwide)
Louvre Palace Collection (Paris, France). Egyptian Antiquities. Renaissance portraits in Petite Galerie. Louvre’s architectural history. https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne#tabs
Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France). Monet and van Gogh online exhibit. Museum architecture. https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/musee-dorsay-paris
National Museum of Anthropology (Mexico City, Mexico). Archaeological artifacts of indigenous culture, Aztec civilization and ancient Mexican art. https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/museo-nacional-de-antropologia-mexico
The British Museum (London, England). Egyptian Mummies. Rosetta Stone. Parthenon sculptures. Two million years of antiquities. https://britishmuseum.withgoogle.com
The Dalí Theatre-Museum (Catalonia, Spain). Surrealism of Salvador Dali. Virtual tour of the complex. https://www.salvador-dali.org/en/museums/dali-theatre-museum-in-figueres/visita-virtual/
The Vatican Museums (Vatican City, Rome, Italy). Twelve virual tours of chapels and museums. http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.1.html
Online Museums & Tours (United States)
J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, California). Virtual exhibits of Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portraits, photography collection. Interactive walk around the grounds via Xplorit. https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-j-paul-getty-museum. https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/michelangelo_drawings/explore.html
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, New York). Largest art museum in US. Virtual tours. Fashion. Baroque. Post-Impressionist. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features
National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.). Online collections. Virtual Exhibits: Degas. Rafael. European landscape oils. https://www.nga.gov
Smithsonian Natural History Museum (Washington, D.C.). Dinosaurs. Insects, Rocks and minerals. https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (Washington, D.C.). Aviation and space artifacts. Virtual tour. https://airandspace.si.edu/anywhere
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York City, New York). Impressionist. Modern. Contemporary. Guggenheim architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright. https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/solomon-r-guggenheim-museum
FaceBook (Social Media & Pop Culture Art)
I credit the following two sources for much of the above information about online and virtual resources for images: 1- The Best Virtual Tours of Major Museums, Trivia Trip, April 15, 2020. 2- Kenzie Allen, Apiary Lit, 30/30 Day 27: Ekphrasis, April 27, 2017. Their art and science resources were excellent.
Best wishes to any author who uses these online digital resources. May they enrich the thingy-ness of your writing.
Read To Improve Your Writing
The best way to improve your writing is to read other good writers. Think about it. How did you learn to read? You learned by doing it. And the more you read, the better you got as a reader. It works the same way for writing.
Everyday I read what other writers write. I read work by notables and emerging poets. I read high quality work. The act of reading well written poetry lifts my own bar of personal expectations—it pushes me to aspire, to try to excel. Reading work by contemporary poets helps me to keep pace with the ever changing literary landscape, provides a dose of post-modern reality and is a way to gage the pulse of popular culture.
There are many online resources you can subscribe to for free. The publisher delivers a poem-a-day into your inbox. Or an article about writing. Or an example of best of the craft (such as non-fiction). Or a daily writing resource. All you have to do is register. Go to the website, scroll until you find the sign up box, enter your email address. You’re subscribed.
Below is my personal list list of “daily-poem” Emails. This selective list is weighted in favor of poetry and memoir, because that is what I write.
I learned this daily practice of reading a poem-a-day from poet and teacher Marj Hahne. It has helped me immensely as a writer. Thank you, Marj, you introduced me to most of these sites!
Some “Daily Poem” & Writer Emails:
Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Keillor covers literary tidbits, factoids and history about authors from all disciplines. He covers all literary ages, from classical to modern. http://www.garrisonkeillor.com/subscribe/
Rattle. Publishes a daily poem-a-day that mixes emerging poets with notables. Highly competitive. Open to all submitters. Only publishes 2% of submissions. https://www.rattle.com/
Poem of the Day. By Poetry Foundation. Not only does Poetry Foundation have a daily Poem of the Day for free but they provide a collection, “Teaching Online Poetry”, a fine resource for learning poetry remotely. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/poem-of-the-day
Slow Down Show. By Tracy K. Smith, Past US Poet Laureate. This site may have special appeal to audio-learners. Tracy prefaces each poem with a creative essay in the voice of a storyteller, she gathers you in before she reads the featured poem. https://www.slowdownshow.org/
Poetry Daily. A non-profit contemporary poetry organization. Offers diverse, multicultural poems, including translations. Daily poems are culled from current literary journals published in print and online. Sign up for a free daily poem: https://poems.com/about/
SWIMM Every Day. Collaborative poetry salon by Women Writers of Miami, The Betsy Hotel and others. A virtual poem-a-day project spotlights modern women’s voices. SWIMM is also dedicated to building a real-time literary community. https://www.swwim.org/
Brevity’s Non-Fiction Blog. Somewhat daily posts from the Literary Non-Fiction World. Featured Guests share articles about writer practices to make a difference. Great source of ideas and inspiration for Creative and Flash Non-Fiction. The writer’s counterpart to Brevity Magazine, publisher of stellar flash non-fiction works by emerging and notable writers. https://brevity.wordpress.com
Read on. And write on. And may the muse find your inbox this month!
Poetry of Witness for a Missing Amish Girl
Life and art often converge to form poetry of witness, a term popularized by Carolyn Forché.
Forché writes poetry that does not cross into runaway ego or devolve into political rant. Her writing remains true art of protest. The author’s philosophy of poetry of witness leads to the creation of fine art and demands a conscious mindfulness from the reader.
I’ll use a real life example of poetry of witness in action, based on a tragic event that is happening now, real-time, where I live: Amish Country, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, US. On June 21, 2020, on a nearby road, a kidnapper abducted an Amish girl and the search for her continues. Her name is Linda Stoltzfoos, of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, US.
A writer’s first job for poetry of witness would be to research the event and assess the status of the investigation. For more information on the Missing Amish Girl, two online resources include:
1- Missing Amish Girl, Linda Stoltzfoos FaceBook Page. The site was setup by Linda’s uncle, a man who left the Amish faith. The kidnapping has brought together Amish and English communities in a search for Linda. https://www.facebook.com/111726970587041/photos/a.111758243917247/118278029931935
2- Amish America: News Reports on Missing Amish Girl: Were you on any of these 5 roads on June 21? Please contact police (Linda Stoltzfoos search) The Amish America website includes encyclopedic information about Amish culture, history, religion and way of life.
A haiku writer, Meik Blöttenberger, developed a plan for poetry of witness for writing haiku about Linda Stoltzfoos. His project will create a Linda-Book of haiku to honor the young life of the kidnap victim and mail a copy to the Stoltzfoos family. If you wish to submit a Linda-haiku for consideration, here’s the information Meik mailed to his haiku writers and friends:
You may have heard in the news about Linda Stoltzfoos, an eighteen year old Amish girl walking home from church, when she was kidnapped. I live in the Amish Country of Pennsylvania and so does Ingrid Bruck, and we are writing haiku that express our concern for Linda and her family, and they will be compiled in a publisher booklet and sent to the family of Linda Stoltzfoos. We invite you to send haiku on this subject to this email: firstname.lastname@example.org by August 15th, and below are two examples of haiku written for Linda:
your sweet smile
the smell of mowed hay
the cold flow inside me
always missing you
Thank you for your time and let's show how haiku can be used an instrument of healing.
Where to Publish Essays
Personal essay writing is one of many creative non-fiction forms. Flash form has 250-800 words. Long form, 2,000-15,000 words. It’s narrative non-fiction, fact based, personal experience informed. The writing reflects on the larger issues of the human experience from the view-point of your own life narrative. Creative Non-Fiction in essay form comes in many styles and topics. (EX: relationship/memoir/travel/food). Hybrids abound. A non-fiction essay often crosses and breaks down genre borders.
On the topic of personal essay, I refer you to a current online article on the subject of essays: 22 Websites and Magazines That Want to Publish Your Personal Essay by FARRAH DANIEL and LISA ROWAN, published in The Write Life, June 26, 2020. https://thewritelife.com/personal-essay/.
Daniel & Rowan’s article is a good place to begin when you want to learn about personal essay. The authors’ provide this inclusive definition of personal essay: “<Essayist> Ashley C. Ford …emphasized the importance of creating a clear connection between your personal experience and universal topics. ‘It’s about telling interesting and worthy stories about the human condition using examples from your life.’”
Caution: many of the venues on Daniel and Rowan’s list require making pitches to get an invitation to submit. Experienced essay writers will more likely to bookmark the article and use it to identify places to submit personal essays. Why? Experienced essayists possess the know-how to make pitches. Emerging writers are more apt to use this article as a reading guide.
Reading good essays is good way to learn the craft. Reading fine essays shows the writer what types of essays are getting published. It’s also a good way to learn tricks and tools of the trade from the best essay writers. Daniel & Rowan include a link to one outstanding essay to read for each of the 22 venues that publish personal essays on their list. In my opinion, reading these exemplary personal essays is one of the best writer tools available to succeed in getting your essay published. Why? You learn what a particular publisher is seeking. Given that information, you can judge whether the website or magazine publishes provides a good match to your writing style.
Some Good Places for Publishing Essays (without a Pitch)
Some Good Places Publishing Essays (Without Requiring a Pitch):
Brevity Magazine. Flash Non-Fiction, max. 750 words. https://brevitymag.com/submissions/
4thgenre: Explorations in Nonfiction. General submission, max. 8,000 words. Contemporary & Creative Non-Fiction. Open: August 30-November 30, 2020. Submittable. https://msupress.org/journals/fourth-genre/
Under the Gum Tree. Creative Non-fiction. Categories: relationship, food. travel. https://www.underthegumtree.com/submit
Hippocampus Magazine. Essay, max 4,000 words. Memoir, max. 4,000 words. Flash Non-Fiction, max. 800 words. $3/Submittable. https://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/tag/submissions/
Narrative. Essays. 2,000-15,000 words. https://www.narrativemagazine.com/submission
River Teeth: A Journal of Non-Fiction Narrative. Essays. Open: September 1 to December 1, 2020. https://www.riverteethjournal.com/journal/submissions
Good luck writing a personal essay and getting it published!
Literary Venues for Humor
Humor makes a good hook to capture a reader’s attention. Writer and reader laugh together at themselves and each other. The humor writer expresses his/her vulnerability and trusts the reader to be kind. A writer who dares to laugh at him/herself is likable. Because the reader cares about you, they will cheer for you and want to read more. There’s nothing better than a good belly laugh.
Another plus for writing humor: good humor possesses healing properties. Even a stoic like me has a crevasse of healing humor buried inside. It can emerge as satire. Or parody. Or irony. Or surrealism. When I excavate humor, it livens and lightens my writing. These are reasons why I sometimes write humorous pieces. Individuals employ humor in their work for different reasons and personal needs.
I recommend reading Anita Gill’s article: This is No Joke: Humor Journals Worthy of Your Submissions Her article was published by WWS: Women Who Submit, November 19, 2015. It contains good information about why people write humor and places that accept it. Anita lists many good resources that are not on my list. Check them out.
In “This is no joke”, Anita refers to another fine article about writing humor: “Plight of the Funny Female: Why people tend to appreciate men’s humor so much more than women’s”, by Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, November 19, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/11/plight-of-the-funny-female/416559/. Khazan’s piece is another good read on the subject of writing humor, especially for women authors.
What venues publish humor writing? My writer group discussed favorite places to send humor pieces. The list below contains journals recommended by my writer friends because they published their work.
Some Journals with a Panache for Humor:
4. The Five-Two (crime poem focus, but they publish humorous and satirical
5. Rat's Ass Review (RAR accepts some humor)
7. Better Than Starbuck's (dedicated section of the magazine for light hearted formal poems)
8. The Satirist
10. The Drabble. (The Drabble accepts some humor)
11. Ariel Chart (Ariel Chart accepts some humor)
Please note that each publisher has style and content preferences. Be sure to seek a good match for your unique style of humor.
I thank Karlo Silverio Sevilla for compiling this list.
Where To Publish Writing About Current Events
Many journals categorize any literary response to what’s in the news as political writing and will not consider it. Others open a doorway, a resistance option beyond Editorial Letters in the newspaper.
The literary journals I selected to highlight are ones that accept writing of witness. They generally prefer work that does not rant or hammer the causes of political persuasion.
Some of them categorize writing about current events as creative non-fiction. Others refer to this kind of writing as essay. Or state they accept a hybrid mix of non-fiction and poetry. Some are open to writing in any form that protests abuse.
If you are a writer (like me) who hears the siren call of poetry of witness, these literary journals may be of interest to you.
Literary Journals Open to Current Events: This select list contains literary journals that accept writing of protest and politics. What they have in common is that these venues value artists and writers creative response to current events.
New Verse News. http://www.newversenews.com. Timely. Poetry only.
Poets Respond® | Rattle: Poetry. https://www.rattle.com/respond/ Features a weekly poem abut current events of the week.
Writers Resist. https://www.writersresist.com/submission-guide/ Feminist journal. Dedicated civil non-violent resistance.
Poets Reading The News For “current events from around the world”.
Line Rider Press. This journal "encourage(s) politically-minded poetry"
Collective Unrest. Art and multi-genre writing. Requires a “message of political resistance, social justice, and unrest.”
Canary - A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis Currently taking submissions on the theme of winter.
The Satirist. The Satirist - Submissions | The Satirist. Publishes some satirical, news related poetry and prose.
Consequence Magazine. https://www.consequencemagazine.org/submit/ Non-Profit. Annual publication. Fiction & Non-Fiction. About the culture of war.
Rats Ass Review. http://ratsassreview.net/?page_id=81. Open to poetry of resistance but not politics.
The Poets’ Republic | Poets React. https://poetsrepublic.org/poets-react/ Poets React section of this journal, for current week “news or current affairs <that> go astray.” English & Scots, Gaelic.
Please note, some journals feature a single genre, others are open to non-fiction, fiction, poetry, art. Before you submit, determine whether a particular journal offers a good match for your work. You’ll waste your time (or theirs) sending writing of witness to a journal averse to current event writing.
Good luck getting your news of the day pieces published!
Many writers use prompts as a good way to tap into creativity and produce good work. Some authors use writing prompts as a part of a daily writing practice. Others use prompts to get a jump start. Or to counter writer’s block. The reasons for using writing prompts are many, all of them valid.
Where can you find good writing prompts?
1. You can fish the internet ocean for writing prompts.
2. You can take a writing class that includes writing time from prompts.
3. You can buy a book of prompts. Many books of writing prompts are available for sale. Books is a good way to locate prompts that work for you.
4. Or you can simply begin with a Google Search of writing prompts for adults. These hits alone will provide you enough prompts to write every day for ten years.
Instagram hosts a fine array of writing prompts: @writing.prompt.s
And Twitter is no slouch for delivering writing prompts: https://twitter.com/writingprompts?lang=en
To get an overview of genres and examples of themes, you may wish to read an article on the topic. The following three articles contain writing prompts and are published by a reliable source.
1- Cassandra Lipp’s “81 Creative Prompts for Writers”, Writer’s Digest Magazine, November 6, 2020. https://www.writersdigest.com/be-inspired/creative-writing-prompts-for-writers
2- Chelle Stein’s “365 Creative Writing Prompts”, Think Written, August 7, 2020. https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/
3- Kelsey Worsham’s “500 Writing Prompts to Help Beat Writer’s Block”, Written Word, September 21, 2020. This prompt list is arranged by genre. https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/author/kelsey/
The challenge will be to locate good writing prompts that work for you. Below are sites that work for me. My personal faves include:
Language is a virus - http://www.languageisavirus.com/index.php# Not only do they post a daily writing prompt, but this massive website assembles a rich collection of post-modern writing prompts. They provide direct links to an impressive selection of iconic writing exercises in the post-modern, spontaneous writing tradition. This site takes you to:
82 Writing Experiments by Bernadette Mayer
66 Experiments by Charles Bernstein
The Cut-Up Method by Brion Gysin
Essay Writing Experiments by Daniel Nester
Allen Ginsberg’s Mind Writing Slogans
Rimbaud’s Systemic Derangement of the Senses
Jack Kerouac’s Essentials for Spontaneous Prose
William S Burroughs Cut-Up Technique
Anais Nin’s Collage Technique
Marcel Duchamp’s The Creative Act
Poets & Writers: 50 & Forward, offers weekly writing prompts. Check out “The Time Is Now” feature for a weekly prompt in three genres: Tuesdays for poetry, Wednesdays for fiction, Thursdays for Creative Non-Fiction. https://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhI_Nnsim7QIVDYeGCh0eeABWEAMYASAAEgIXHPD_BwE
Toasted Cheese is an online literary journal with a lively writing community of authors. Anyone can sign up to receive a daily writing prompt in their inbox. The magazine archives past monthly prompts. https://www.toasted-cheese.com/tag/daily-writing-prompts/
Good luck writing! May the muse find you in prompts. Or otherwise.
Best Books of 2020
Writers enjoy reading or we wouldn’t write books. Reading plants seeds in our imagination. If you read like I do, reading uncoils your mind, stretches boundaries and comfort zones, opens up new ways of seeing the world. The question only you can answer is, “What good book do I want to read next?”
The end of each year brings multiple lists of good books to read, announcements of reading prize winners. Some survey the winner lists to discover what they missed and fill in the personal reading gaps. Others use the Best Books of the Year for holiday shopping suggestions to guide their gift giving. Or simply treat themselves to good books to read on cold dark winter nights.
2020 offers seemingly countless new book choices. You have to pick and choose. Many people look forward to the publication of Best Books of the Year in December. The challenge for you as a writer and reader will be to identify a good list of best new books that makes a good match with your writing style and reading taste.
The internet hosts a plethora of notable book lists at the end of each year. Some are produced by presses. Others from libraries. From the literary marketplace. From genre interest groups. From reading clubs. From avid readers.
Maybe it’s my librarian training, but I enjoy looking at Best Book Lists taken from the year’s published book reviews. These lists cumulate and rank the books in the a pool of published book reviews appearing during the year.
Below are four sample notable book lists for 2020:
Literary Hub is my favorite source of book overviews. Check out their multi-genre library list of the 65 best books of 2020. https://lithub.com/our-65-favorite-books-of-the-year/
Goodreads publishes a Top 200 books published for 2021 based on reader popularity. Their criteria for popularity is judged by a book’s number of individual published reader reviews..
NY Times produces reviews of notable books by critics and editors. The December list, 100 Notable Books of 2020, includes the year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Many libraries use NYT book recommendations to guide new book purchasing decisions. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/books/notable-books.html
Washington Post produces highly respected book reviews in all genres. Here’s a select list for the top ten books in 2020:
When I check out year-end notable books lists, I notice a lack consensus on titles. Notable titles vary, depending which list you survey. Many titles repeat, others tend to be popular within a particular geographical or demographic region.
I start by going local, it’s the same way I buy food. I was a library director and value the opinions of other librarians. Many librarians are avid readers and great at reader’s advisory. Filling a public library with good books is a librarian’s job, it’s one they tend to do well. I led many library reading book clubs. For years, I read voraciously, though less so now that I’m writing more. Very often, I find delight in the book recommendations received from fellow librarians.
Each holiday season, I look forward to receiving librarian Joe DaRold’s year end list of best new books. Joe was a library colleague in New Jersey, he served as the director of Plainfield Public Library for many years before retiring. Joe read 110 books last year, which far surpasses me. He continues to serve as president of a library book group featuring new books. Every year, Joe culls a select list of the best new books. With Joe’s permission, I pass to you his December 2020 notable books list.
2020-2021 - BEST OF THE YEAR
selected by Joe DaRold
O’Nan, Stewart. Henry, Himself – lovely story; I did not care for Emily, Alone, I found this prequel to be enchanting.
Wright, Lawrence The End of October. Eerie similarities to our pandemic. Exciting and well written.
Mosley, Walter Trouble is What I Do. Always a pleasure to read.
Picoult, Jodi The Book of Two Ways. Terrific for book clubs. She is one of my favorites, but this is unlike any of her other books.
Richardson, Michelle The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Heartwarming,
Bolton, Sharon The Craftsmen. One of my favorite writers. I read
Gardner, Lisa When You See Me. Ditto.
Lansdale, Joe R. Bad Chili. My book club read a short story of his last year and I was hooked. I’ve now read 13 of his “Hap and Leonard” books set in red-neck territory of East Texas. These are among the best, but all are terrific.
Lansdale, Joe R. The Elephant of Surprise - Ditto
Lansdale, Joe R. Rusty Puppy - Ditto
Spann, Susan Ghost on the Bamboo Road – Delightful light mystery series in 16th c. Japan
Best wishes for great reading pleasure in 2021.