Friday, March 31, 2017

Useful and Necessary: April is National Poetry Month

April is upon us and it's National Poetry month!

Lately, when I need a break from the news cycle, when I need to refill my emotional and artistic reserves, I've turned to poetry. I've blogged before about poetry's usefulness here and here. Put simply, poetry interrogates our society and our humanity, it shapes our language and our world even if only a fraction of people read (very much of) it.

In keeping with my increased commitment to engagement this year, here are the actions I'm taking to celebrate poetry this month:


I subscribed to Poetry Magazine. Though, if money is tight their website has plenty to offer, or put their poetry spinner on your phone.


I am working on a poem/writing poetry for 30 minutes a day. I considered doing a poem-a-day challenge, but have come to realize that when writing prose or poetry, creating a finished project takes exactly as long as it takes. As someone who loves polishing prose and tinkering with the line, this really scratches my itch. I'm hoping that it will free me up in my prose work, especially when I need to push through a rough draft - that early writing that is so messy and ugly and necessary.

Feeling a little shy about diving back into writing poetry, I found Sharpened Visions: A poetry workshop, a lovely refresher/introductory mooc. (It just started, so not too late to join in. If you do, wave to me on the forums!)

I may never be a great poet, or even a good one, but it's a practice worth any writer's time. Poetry sharpens your eye to metaphor, image, and moment; it sharpens your ear to sound and lyricism.

If you want to try your hand here's an exercise inspired by the Sharpened vision's week one lesson 

Try inserting line breaks into a piece of prose: the opening paragraph from a famous novel, a newspaper article, or an insufferable interoffice memo...

For this, I used one of the Tiger Oil Memos from Letters of Note.

Here's my try:


On days you have to work,
And you think you should be

you wear slouchy dress attire.
That will not occur
In the future. You

Will wear proper
Dress attire to work
Always. Also, all employees

should have the proper attitude to
Coincide with proper
Dress, Especially on those days

When you’re working and
Think you should be

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Fantastical Fictions Book Club!

 There are so many wonderful examples of fantastic literature just waiting to be discovered, and Malvern Books glitters with a wealth of rare and hard to find literary gems. So, after a successful year hosting a variety of authors and their fabulous books, we've decided to expand the Fantastical Fictions series to include a book club.

On Thursday March 23 at 7:00 p.m., we'll be discussing John Wyndham's final novel Chocky. Completed in 1968, this story originally appeared as a novelette in Amazing Stories in 1963

From the back cover:
"It's not terribly unusual for a boy to have an imaginary friend, but Matthew's parents have to agree that his--nicknamed Chocky--is anything but ordinary. Why, Chicky demands to know, are there twenty-four hours in a day? Why are there two sexes? Why can't Matthew solve his math homework using a logical System like binary code?"

"Chocky, a playful investigation of what being human is all about, delving into such matters as child-rearing, marriage, learning, artistic inspiration--and ending with a surprising and impassioned plea for better human stewardship of the earth."
Even if you haven't heard of John Wyndham, it's a good bet that you've heard of his work. As a writer he hit his stride after World War Two and, much like Philip K. Dick who came after, tapped into the zeitgeist of the times. Like PKD many of his works where transformed over and over into radio plays, movies and TV shows.

His novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, came to the big screen (more than once) as the Village of the Damned. Perhaps even more famous is the screen adaptation of his tale of vegetable monsters, The Day of the Triffids.

In 1984 the BBC adapted Chocky into a television series for children, which would seem to suit gentle, but no less fascinating story. 

Malvern is stocked with extra copies of this brief novel, and there's plenty of time to read it before the meeting, but since this isn't school, there'll be no quiz! No worries if you haven't read it, or have no intention to. If you enjoy discussing books--especially the type that don't concern themselves too much with the rules of reality the rest of us have to live by, then come and spend an hour with us.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Pick up your pens, it’s time to start thinking about the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop!

When I told a writer friend that I would be coordinating the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop this year, he asked me if I’d lost a bet? I laughed and said, no. I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to give back to a workshop that has given me so much! Excited and a little nervous. Lucky for me I have the support of the previous coordinators Marshall Ryan Maresca and Stina Leicht. With their help I’m looking forward to making this year’s workshop the best experience it can be!

When I returned to writing fiction after my children were born, I did not have the option either financially or time-wise to travel to the big name workshops like Clarion, Odyssey, or Viable Paradise. When my kids were small, even the idea of jetting out of town for a weekend seemed financially onerous and physically exhausting. There are a lot of great online workshops, but many of them are also costly. What I really needed at the beginning, was to find out if workshopping was going to be useful to me. Looking at where I am now, it’s clear that a good writing workshop is a valuable asset. As a student of the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop I received one-on-one input on my work from amazing writers and editors including Paolo Bacigalupi, Lou Anders, Cat Rambo, and Liz Gorinsky. I moved on to volunteering for the workshop as both a first reader and instructor, and it's been no less inspiring to be on the other side of the table teaching with hard-working talent such as Ken Liu, Jacob Weisman of Tachyon publications, James Morrow and Timmel Duchamp of Aqueduct Press.

Just $90 gets you the full-day workshop and a convention membership to attend all of the activities for the entire weekend. ArmadilloCon is known as an excellent regional literary convention, which means there will be lots of great panels about writing, reading, and the state of the genre (there are also panels about movies, tv shows, gaming, and everything geek). This is a great gateway workshop. If you think you might enjoy writing in general and genre in particular, this is a great low cost way to check out a workshop. This is the place to learn how to give and receive critique and to get instruction that will help take your writing to the next level. At least as important, is that the workshop and weekend are an opportunity to meet other writers. To find your tribe and make connections that will serve your writing year round. 

I’ll finish by saying that we are committed to promoting diversity and access for all workshop attendees. Writing in a genre centered on exploration and encountering the Other must include voices and visions from writers, readers and thinkers of all kinds. The Workshop actively seeks to include students, faculty, visiting scholars, and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, and ability. 

As far as instructors, so far we have: 

Nisi Shawl (Guest of Honor)  
Trevor Quachri  (Editor Guest) 
Martha Wells 
Don Webb (Toastmaster) 
Nicky Drayden 
D. L. Young 

I will be booking instructors throughout the spring, so check the workshop page for updates. 

Check back here for posts about workshopping in general and how to prepare for the ArmadilloCon’s workshop in particular. 

Now it’s your turn: The first order of business is to start writing, so fire up your laptops, grab your pens and let’s get started!