Poetry Wednesday

It’s Wednesday again– time for the Poetic Asides poetry prompt. Today’s prompt was to write a poem with the title “Ways to (blank)”. As it is almost dinnertime, and I am just now getting to the prompt, I thought the following was quite apropos.

Ways to Procrastinate

There’s always Facebook, for starters.
Gmail, Twitter, and poring through my Google Reader,
they take up a lot of time too.
YouTube is always good for a few laughs,
and nothing better than YouTube
for taking a trip
down Nostalgia Lane.

Hours later, when I’m sure
I have left no links unclicked,
and no blog posts flagged unread,
only then do I pick up my notebook
and my pen
and start to write.

Women Reinvented

I just got my contributor’s copy yesterday of Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change. This is a project I was very happy to be a part of. The book is published by LaChance Publishing, and proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to The Healing Project, a not-for-profit organization created to support those with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

Women Reinvented is the 9th book in the “Voices of” series. Other titles in the series deal with alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, autism, bipolar disorder, caregiving, breast cancer, lung cancer, and multiple sclerosis– tough topics dealt with honestly. Having read stories from several volumes in the series, including Women Reinvented, I can heartily recommend the series for anyone who is dealing with one of these issues, has a friend or loved one dealing with any of these issues, or who just wants to be more educated on these topics.

Thirty-one women, including myself,  contributed their stories to Women Reinvented. My story, The Best of All Worlds, deals with career decisions I was faced with, after becoming a mother for the first time. Other stories deal with the aftermath of being raped, starting again after a divorce, career changes, illness and recovery, and… well, anything having to do with reinvention!The book is divided into four sections: “Reclaiming Myself”, “Finding My Calling”, “Of Marriage and Motherhood”,  and “My Spirit Renewed”. I look forward to reading all of the stories, and I hope you will too!

Strains of Mendelssohn

What is a Kukai? Here’s one definition, from The Caribbean Kigo Kukai blog, sponsored by Gillena Cox:

“The Kukai – a haiku contest, where each person submits a haiku, and then, becomes a judge. When all the poems are compiled in a list, the contestants comment, vote, and give scores to poems of their choice. One cannot comment on, nor vote for one’s own poem. At the end of the voting process winners emerge, the selection based on votes by the kukai’s contestants.”

I discovered Kukai a few months ago, and have been happily submitting ever since. There is much to be learned by examining why one haiku sings, while another very similar one is flat. Through reading a multitude of haiku based on the same kigo, by haikuists from all over the globe, I have come to appreciate the subtle nuances of language and the wide variety of sensory imagery and thoughts that we all bring to our writing.

This month I had the honor of taking first place in the Caribbean Kigo Kukai #13, with this haiku: (the kigo was “carnation”)

strains of Mendelssohn
the groom fiddles
with his carnation
–Cara Holman, USA

Gillena Cox posted this lovely commentary in the “Comments” section.

Felix Mendelssohn is regarded by classical music aficionados and critics alike, as one of
the most prolific and gifted composers the world has ever known. Even those who could
not name any of his works have heard it, as his “Wedding March” from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which has accompanied many a bride down the aisle…

The writer takes us to a setting with the use of a musical introduction. ” strains of
Mendelssohn” she writes, then pivots on the musicality of the setting, the “groom fiddles”;
Cara has carefully choosen her words to present to us this special scenario, to capture for us this instant of a bridegroom’s quirky. Who is not nervous at a wedding? who is not swept up in the tensions of getting it right for this big day? all of the preparation gone before in trying to perfect this day is resonated in his action, and all the hope of a new future life intimated. The bridegroom in Cara’s episode is all of normal, human and real, nervous tension and all.
This haiku, is lively, and too, full of life; its present, its prospects, and all the concomitant questions of the future
A musical prelude prepares us for this haiku’s drama, then she carefully reels us in with the
introduction of the second schema the bridegroom, and as the plot thickens, the long
awaited appearance of our kigo ‘carnation’
There is rhythm, there is motion, there is beauty, there is emotion, there is projection
encapsuled in Cara’s 5-5-5 schema to present to us a super winning haiku

strains of Mendelssohn
the groom fiddles
with his carnation
–Cara Holman, USA

Well Done Cara; we look forward to seeing more of your runaway wining ku’s

much love
gillena cox; CKK coodinator

La Lune

Yesterday on Poetic Asides, Robert Lee Brewer introduced a new-to-me poetic form: the lune. The lune is an American Haiku, which comes in two flavors.

The Kelly lune (after poet Robert Kelly) is a three-line, thirteen-syllable form, with syllable count 5-3-5. Unlike traditional Japanese haiku, nature themes are not required, and simile and metaphor are allowed.

The Collom lune (after poet Jack Collom) is a three-line, eleven-word form, with word count 3-5-3. All themes fine, and simile and metaphor may also be included.

Here is one of each that I posted for today’s Poetic Asides prompt to write about a lightbulb moment (or just a lightbulb):

(Kelly variant)

energy saving
but why mercury?


(Collom variant )

once a daughter
now I’m the older generation–
a lightbulb moment

Event Recap: David Michael Slater Talk

Event Recap: Author and BSD Teacher David Michael Slater Discusses the Path to Publishing Children’s Books at Wilsonville Public Library

By Cara Holman

It seems like we always have good weather the day of the Northwest Author Series, and Sunday was no exception. I almost stayed home to garden instead, but I’m glad I opted to make the drive down to Wilsonville. Children’s author and local BSD high school teacher David Michael Slater gave a highly entertaining and informative talk entitled “Publishing Books for Children: Plotting Your Success”.

Slater published his first children’s book, Cheese Louise! in 2000, and since then, has gone on to publish a total of 16 picture books to date. He has also published two YA books in the new Sacred Books series, and an adult novel Selfless. But as he candidly shared with the audience, the path to publishing has been anything but smooth sailing. In fact, this workshop could well have been subtitled “Perils and Pitfalls on the Path to Publishing”.

Slater very visually illustrated that rejection is part of the process by passing around three voluminous binders filled with rejection letters he has acquired over the years. Some were as dismissive as “Dear Writer, thank your for your submission. We’re sorry to say…”, while others were somewhat more encouraging. Although a ripple of sympathetic laughter ran though the audience (been there, done that!), the message was clear. The secret to getting published? Relentlessly submitting again and again. Seeing the spread of the books that he had published on the table was proof positive that with hard work and determination, it is possible to get published on a regular basis.

One of the most helpful parts of the talk for aspiring writers was when Slater proceeded to share with us his somewhat unorthodox “Top Ten (Truthful) Tips for Tackling the Tricky Terrain of a Writing Career”:

  1. Targeted submissions are fine… but shoot at LOTS of targets!
  2. CONTINUALLY search the web for possible new contacts.
  3. STRIKE while the iron is hot… because your promising news may be temporary.
  4. BELIEVE that your time… is as valuable as anyone else’s.
  5. NEVER hold off submitting based on vague hints or promises… or even not so vague hints or promises.
  6. GO ON to your next project while you continue to submit the last.
  7. ACCEPT that little or no marketing will happen for your book unless… you do it yourself.
  8. DON’T scoff at any chance for publicity…
  9. NEVER burn bridges because you never know…
  10. KNOW that that persistence is every bit as important as talent when it comes to success.

The last part of the talk dealt specifically with writing picture books. Like novels or short stories, a narrative arc is required, beginning with a set-up plus an inciting incident. Then complications and increasing conflict must ensue until the story reaches the climax, and then finally culminates in a resolution. Slater highly recommended the book Story, by Robert McKee, which although aimed at screenwriting, is also applicable to writing picture books. Other facts I learned about writing children’s picture books:

  • Unlike novels, you don’t query picture books—you just send the entire manuscript along with a cover letter. The response time is generally in the neighborhood of six months.
  • When submitting, always make sure you address your cover letter using the actual name of the editor, not “Dear Acquisition Editor”. The internet is a great resource for finding names.
  • Whenever possible, push for an advance. A publisher is more likely to promote a book that they had to pay for upfront.
  • In his experience, the average amount of royalty that an author can expect to receive on an $18 hardcover picture book is 50 cents.
  • Barnes & Noble won’t even consider ordering a book unless it has received a national review, which are hard to come by.
  • With some of the larger publishing houses, the picture book author has no input (or contact) with the illustrator. Smaller publishing houses may allow authors to have more control over the illustration process.
  • There is a lot of luck involved in the publishing of books. Slater’s first picture book was accepted because the editor had “been dreaming his whole life of publishing a book with vegetables in it.”
  • The most powerful scenes are almost never about what they seem to be about on the surface.
  • Readers are most readily disarmed by humor.

For more information about author David Michael Slater, check out his website. There is also a great Podcast there with Slater being interviewed by with Jody Seay from “Back Page” about his adult novel Selfless.

This concludes the 2009-2010 season of Christina Katz’ NW Author Series. Christina hopes to have the schedule for the 2010-2011 season finalized by July.

Leek and Potato Soup

Since two people asked, here’s a great family recipe for leek and potato soup. Especially tasty this time of year when the Farmer’s Markets carry fresh leeks, onions,garlic cloves and potatoes. I never actually measure anything since I’ve been making it for years now, so I had to guess at some measurements. I’d love to hear how it comes out!

Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

3 good-sized leeks

1 large onion

2-3 garlic cloves


6 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

nutmeg, pepper, to taste

4 cups water

1 cup milk

Cut the white part of the leeks into coin-shaped slices, and sauté in butter with minced onion and crushed garlic until browned. Add 4 cups of water, nutmeg (I think I use about 1 tsp.) and ground pepper to taste, and add the peeled and sliced potatoes. Lower heat, stir occasionally, and cook covered until the potatoes are soft and starting to fall apart. (I never actually timed this, but I’m guessing it takes about ½ hour). Uncover, add one cup of milk and leave on low heat just until the milk heats through, stirring frequently. It doesn’t need to boil, and don’t let it burn on the bottom! Serve immediately. We always eat it with cornbread, but any kind of bread or rolls go well with it. Enjoy!

(I’m pretty sure I got this recipe from my mom, years ago. It is a great family favorite!)

A Celebration

How many times do we as writers, or as just plain people, for that matter, stand back and celebrate just how far we’ve come? Not often enough! In this spirit, Christina Katz, a.k.a. Writer Mama, offered fellow writer mamas  a chance to contribute to her blog post today, timed to coincide with the re-release of  her e-book: Author Mama, How I Became A Published Author & How You Can Too.

I was proud to contribute to this post, and to be inspired by reading the stories of 39 other women, who are also juggling writing careers with motherhood. Some like me are relative beginners, while others have been at it for many years, but together we celebrate the joys of expressing ourselves through the written word, while still being on the front lines for our families. Read Christina’s post and be inspired too.