Today’s poetics prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub is to write a laundry poem. De Jackson, today’s host, wrote a great example called Spin Cycle. The prompt brought up tons of memories: The cramped laundry room in my childhood home, sorting socks with Mom, the drying closet in Sweden, hand scrubbing in a basin in the Ivory Coast, late nights at the laundromat in New Orleans, stringing a line in the backyard, and so much more. It’s going to be tough to narrow this one down. I decided to stay in the now.
After I mowed, I didn’t jump in the shower I was hungry and thirsty and had emails to read It didn’t take long before my smell distracted I reeked, such a stench of grass, dirt, gas, and sweat So I ran to the laundry room and those clothes I wrenched off and threw in the washer then ran to the shower to scrub
While breathing the sweet gardenia suds of my soap in the steaming hot water, I thought of my shirt that burnt-orange, long sleeve U-neck with a front pocket just perfect for the shed keys and my small mp3 player, so I can listen to audio books and forget that I’m pushing and pulling large rotating blades
When I pulled my mowing shirt from the cupboard this morning it had more holes than fabric but I wanted to wear it so I zigzagged those pieces until there were sleeves and the pocket would work and slipped that perfectly worn almost sheer fabric over my sports bra and t-shirt I comfortably mowed for an hour and a half then tore it off and threw it in the wash just like that
To be soaked and agitated spun, churned and wrung then pulled still wet and shaken tossed in a hot tumbler to dry It won’t survive, not in that shape but I’ll stitch up its wounds again and again because it’s not the long sleeves or the useful front pocket it’s the mow then wash wear and tear that has made it so perfect
2018: Words that were new to me 2019: More new words 2020: Music terms
This year I have been playing with Janus words, exploring how words that can mean their opposite might be used to “turn” a poem. For the A to Z challenge I will look at Janus words and phrases–also known as contronyms, antagonyms, or auto-antonyms–from A to Z and attempt to employ them in my daily poems.
I hope you’ll come by each day to read my new poems, see my new photographs and hear about what I learn along the way.
Today is Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets Pub and I found the cherry blossoms prompt timely. I went out to admire the cherry-plum trees in bloom and noticed the grass is already littered with pink. I’m glad Frank inspired me to spend some time admiring the pink against the sky before it is gone.
The first delicate, pink blossoms burst early this year, or was it me, still clinging to winter’s safe cave? Any excuse to stay hidden under the blankets ripped away by the brash budding cloud of cotton candy, contradicting the sky. But today, upon closer inspection, burgundy leaves already clash with the petals along the branch and the grass is littered with fallen flowers. The bee’s hum fills me with hope for future fruit. Last year I missed the juicy, pitted presents withheld, perhaps, due to a confusing late freeze. I am lucky to have poked my head out in time to witness this peek-a-boo of nature. Like an updraft billowing a circle-skirt, it surprises, shocks, and delights then is gone.
tiny pink blossom tickling periwinkle skies the flasher of spring
For my revision, I assigned each of these scene needs a letter, and starting with the final scene, worked backward through my story, evaluating each scene. Here’s an example:
Scene 14: Maria’s POV after feeding in the town [one of my MCs is a Mexican-American named Maria (not me 😉 )].
G – To leave town C – a farmer tries to help her, grabs her wrist A – She uses aspects of the chupacabra to get away D – She feels / wields the chupacabra’s power, misses old life W – describes the nearest town to the river N – Maria can bring out the chupacabra for defense when scared S – sounds: door slams, whistling; texture: grimy P – She hurt the farmer to get away
This quick analysis of each scene did wonders. I completely deleted one scene and combined two others. I discovered areas that needed more description and sensory detail and a section of exposition that I was able to show in a scene. I had printed out a more detailed “Deconstructing a Scene” worksheet I created a couple years ago, but I didn’t use it because this system worked. I plan to use it as part of my revision process in the future.
After analyzing each scene, I typed in all my changes, saved the draft and let it rest.
I found joy in editing a different, shorter story while letting this one rest. In that story, the main issues were filter words. It really helped the piece to remove sensory filters: saw, heard, and felt. I also added specific details like “mahogany” instead of wood. By the time I finished revising the story, I enjoyed reading it aloud. The words felt good in my mouth.
I brought the feeling of accomplishment and the specific issues I found in the shorter story to the next phase of revision: paragraphs, sentences, and word choice which I will talk about in my next post.
How is your revision is going? Have any tips or tricks?
Yesterday morning I happened upon Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt. This weekly writing prompt offers a word prompt and a word limit. This weekend it is “Yonder” and the word limit is 44 words which I found familiar as it is the same as the dVerse Quadrille. I thought I would give it a go and remembered that it was Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt was “run.” Those prompts could go well together, so I did some journaling.
I enjoyed the stream of consciousness writing and had some ideas for poetry but wasn’t ready to post yesterday. Today, I gave it another look and came up with a “yonder” poem of 44 words that I like.
Here is an excerpt of yesterday’s stream of consciousness:
. . . I used to love to run, through the woods around the lake, lil sjön in Sweden. Now, I run a few steps and I feel like I’ll die. So what “run” do I want to talk about? Colors run, mascara runs, people have the runs, a run in stockings, fingers run up and down scales, a keyboard, race to the finish, the rat race, sprint to the finish, flee from fear, run from a bad memory, from the past, run from the truth, run to love and hope, an embrace, someone’s arms, a familiar face, race to a banquet table, an all-you-can-eat buffet, “do you know where you’re running to? Do you like the things that life is showing you?” Run in place, on a treadmill, in a hamster wheel, run for the ball, run from the police, scatter, only have to run faster than the person behind you . . .
And here is the yonder quadrille poem I wrote this morning:
Beyond the hives filling with honey and the rolling hills where we would roll too through the soft, sweet grass that held us watching dawn to the lapping waves against damp sand we traveled so far to be here where nothing became any clearer
When I read The Tradition by Jericho Brown, I was drawn to his duplex poems. I was fascinated by how slight changes in the repetition of a line could completely change and deepen the meaning of both lines.
Today’s Poetics challenge at the dVerse Poets Pub is to write an ekphrastic poem. I chose Laura’s third option and began my poem based on the title of an image by an artist I wasn’t familiar with, Bridget Riley, before I looked at the piece. Then I looked at the piece and finished the poem.
Movement in Squares
quick turns, sharp angles only to find the point of origin
always on the straight and narrow never to meander with wanderlust
This morning I found Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) thanks to seeing Jenna at revivedwriter’s post in my wordpress reader. I was about to sit down to some stream of consciousness writing in my morning pages anyway, so I thought I would see what SoCS is all about.
The prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (I really like the idea of my Saturdays being completely stream of consciousness) is posted on Friday’s on Linda G. Hill’s blog. Today’s prompt is day/week/month/year. The idea is to share an unedited piece of stream of consciousness.
The first couple pages I wrote were mostly about stress and frustration, nothing all that interesting. I almost gave up and wrote, “I don’t think that got me anywhere.” Then I wrote, “What if I try the senses?”
The day is the color of sunshine and safety of the first narcissus, smiling over the ceramic chicken planter in the bed under the window, inspiring me to pull the weeds, leaving the chicken prepared.
In a week the cherry-plum blossoms will look like cotton candy with birds and bees stuck in their sweetness.
The month will be warm and arouse. The air will fill with elaborate calls of dominance attracting mates And I will begin this year’s pile of cut grass, and turn last year’s compost.
Today at the dVerse Poetry Pub the Quadrille prompt is “swift.” Because I had been bird watching this morning, I thought I would give this 44 word poem a try. Then I started looking at swift’s definitions and synonyms (like I do) and found the noun definitions very interesting. The birds that are called swifts are closely related to hummingbirds and are also the cave bird in Asia that make the nests for nest soup.
A very vocal hummingbird started hanging out in my cherry-plum tree this winter. He’s always trying to show off by making a loud, sharp chirp. I don’t know how well he’s doing, but I’ve seen three hummingbirds looking at each other in my tree recently. I love that he perches at the tip of the very tallest branch, attempting some minuscule dominance.
tiny humming- bird, a swift’s closest relation, chased from his perch in the cherry-plum’s top branch by three sparrows wanting, but he’s not gone a snappy chirp and he dive-bombs, headlong, a kamikaze at breakneck, dispatches the intruders and poses, prominent against the clouded sky
A couple years ago, my nephew became fascinated by my sewing machine. Emulating his grandfather (my father is always fixing something), he decided he needed to fix it. He would shove the little screw drivers into every opening. One time, while I was sewing, I found one of the extra feet inside the gears. So when my neighbor was giving away a sewing machine, I brought it home just for my nephew. For two years of visits, we have gotten out our sewing machines and I sew while he “fixes” his machine.
During his last visit, however, he decided his sewing machine was all fixed and he wanted to sew. I wasn’t sure what would happen after all that “fixing,” but I went ahead and showed him how to thread the machine and taught him about the bobbin. Then we attached the foot pedal and plugged it in. To my amazement, it worked. It even had perfect tension and an even stitch. Since he was too small to reach the pedal and hold the fabric at the same time on the table, he chose to work the pedal while I guided the fabric. At first, he pushed the pedal all the way down and the needle had one speed: fast. After we made a few straight lines, he said he wanted to sew a circle. I told him to accomplish that, we would have to sew more slowly. So we practiced sewing different speeds by carefully pressing the pedal to different depths. Watching him practice sewing more slowly made me think of the next pass in my short story revision, pacing.
Pacing is the movement and momentum in a story. In today’s world of short attention spans with billions of options for entertainment, you might think all stories, especially short stories should go, go, go! But like all good songs, a short story also needs changes in tempo and rests. Often the moments of silence are the most exciting moments in music. So how do I use those ideas in my short story?
First I need to explore my characters’ three main conflicts: Internal, External (story specific) and Societal.
Then I need to see where I can raise the stakes (my poor characters already have it so hard).
I need to make sure that each scene is working as hard as it can: Goal, Conflict, Action that leads to a new goal, Character development, World building, and Reveals new information.
From Cat Rambo’s class, I focused on a couple of questions I want to apply to my story:
Is there a payoff for the reader every few pages: a grabber in the prose?
Where am I moving too quickly? Are pieces missing? This is something I often find in my writing. I expect the reader to see what I see in my head. I need to look for places where I jump over things the reader needs for continuity, believably, and understanding.
Where am I moving too slowly? Where can I cut out unnecessary details and words? Are there whole sections that don’t add to the story being told?
Since my last post, I have typed a new draft of the story. The process was slow and difficult. My inner perfectionist was on high alert and nothing was good enough. Each sentence took forever. However, I think this draft has potential which is exciting.
My story starts in medias res (in the middle of the action). My character is stunned and confused. The longest sentence in my first paragraph has eight words. The second paragraph has longer sentences full of action, keeping the quick pace until he escapes. The story slows for two paragraphs while he takes in his new situation then the next action begins.
Mapping out the story like this was insightful, but wasn’t giving me the overall feel of the story. I had another idea.
Listening: Last month I saw a #ProTip on Twitter from Kelli Russell Agodon that inspired me to explore another revision tool: the computer’s “read aloud” functions. I learned how to use Microsoft’s Narrator and added the Read Text Extension for Open Office. I thought listening to the computer read my story would help me hear and feel the pacing of my story, so I gave it a listen.
That works great for typos! The computerized voice makes the errors completely apparent. For pacing, however, it did not work for me. Even when I changed the voice to the woman speaking at a more natural speed, it was stilted and didn’t flow which was part of what I was listening for. I’ll be using this tool later when I’m working on line edits.
Scenes: After the listening experiment didn’t work, I went through my story and marked the beginning and end of each scene. I highly recommend doing this right after you’ve typed up and read your second draft. What I found is my story has a natural progression of scene and sequel, action and response. I also found a pattern of exposition setting up a scene. These short paragraphs of exposition may need to be tightened up if essential to the flow of the story, or may not be needed at all and can be cut. The exciting part is how obvious they became when I broke the story into scenes.
Everything builds toward the climax: This story, in general, moves well. To improve the pacing, I want to build more toward the climax. To do that I need to introduce a couple of ideas earlier, brainstorm some ways to raise the stakes and increase the tension and pacing going into the climax of the story. As it is, I think the climax occurs too abruptly after a reflective scene.
Another thing to think about at the big picture level of revision is structure. What other ways could I tell this story? The short story is often the format authors use to experiment with story form. Before diving any further into editing your story, ask yourself, Is there a better, more interesting way to present this story?
Applying these ideas to my story
I spent some time with this question and came up with some interesting ideas:
I could switch back and forth between my two character’s POVs more often. This could make it feel like their stories are more intertwined from the very beginning.
I could write the whole story from only my first character’s POV. This would make my second character have to tell her story to him and could make it more emotional and put her spin on it.
I could tell the story non-linearly, starting with my main character coming to acceptance of his situation and then telling what got him there.
That idea led me to telling the story like a reality show. In this type of telling, I could bring in interviews with people who knew my characters: family, friends, co-workers, before they changed. I think this could make a fun sequel or additional story.
I think the structure I chose in the first draft is the best for the telling of this story, however I do like some of these other ideas and might try them as well as separate pieces.
After making these changes, I will have finished the story level or developmental revisions. Next, I will look at each scene and make sure that every one is necessary and doing as much as it can.
I look forward to hearing how your revisions are going and reading any editing and revision tips you would like to share in the comments.