Monday, April 18, 2016

National Poetry Month: Lily Myers, Shrinking Women

Last year, one of my favorite authors, Delilah S Dawson, posted a link to a video. Now, I'm not in the habit of clicking on vid links - because, yeah - but I clicked on this link.

What I found was the most amazing, talented, and wonderful poet performing her work. I watched the video over and over again until the words had soaked into my bones. Then I sent the video to my sister and my mother. The poem was that good.

It's so good I feel compelled to share it with you now.

So, in honor of National Poetry Month I want to share the poem that blew my hair back. Shrinking Women by Lily Myers.

I hope you enjoy:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

TBT: What Working Across From a Construction Site Taught Me About Craft

When you begin focusing on craft you see craft in the world around you. And it's greater than the craft of arts and entertainment. Whether your driving over a bridge or walking along a park path you are immersed in craft.

Here's what working across from a construction site taught me about craft.



First, let me just say, people who build something are amazing. People who build bridges, stadiums, and even backyard sheds – it just blows my hair back. The same way a story, a painting, or a song blows my hair back. The thing you made wasn’t on earth before. Now it is. *whoosh* *Hair blows back* Amazing.

Recently, a major sports team decided to build its new house across the street from my Day Job office. I had mixed feelings about the move and the location. Re: the move – I think it’s cool that the team will be closer to me. Yay sports. Re: the location – I kinda hate the fact that the beautiful green space across from my office building was bulldozed to make room for this stadium.

And when I say this build site is across the street I mean that literally. Across the street.

They are nowhere near being done with this build. It’s scheduled to open in two years (I believe). And in watching the preliminary work I was immediately struck with how this build is like a story build. So here are 5 ways a construction site is like a story:

1. Laying the pipes – one of the first things the crew did (after clearing all the vegetation and grading the land) was lay pipes. Big, huge, pipes for sewage and other unmentionables (did you notice how I mentioned the unmentionables). This is true with world building in a story as well. Every writer has a slightly different process, but when I plan the world in which my story will take place I start with the basics – the rules or laws that impact my plot. These can be as complex and fantastic as ‘a society where the trading of human flesh for transplant is legal,’ to as simple as ‘student loans must be repaid but my MC hates her job.’ These are the pipes in which all plot elements flow.

2. Basements and foundations – after the pipes and utilities were installed the cred began work on the foundation. Now, being that this build is a giant sports stadium the foundation included driving unimaginably large posts into the ground (with some machine that hammered the post into the ground for hours, and hours, and hours) and digging a massive basement. This required cranes, heavy equipment, and lots and lots of people. But most importantly, time. It has taken months for this phase (and it’s still not done). The basement or foundation of your world will likely be the same. You will need to spend time (probably a lot of it) hammering out the specifics of this world (basic fundamental stuff like: do the laws of physics as we know them apply?) and it may require help from other people. Sometimes, during this phase I like to bounce ideas off of my writing friends. Things that make sense to you may not make sense to others. It’s good to get feedback from trusted CP’s at this phase.

3. Security is important – Soon after the basement phase began, gates were erected around the build. Next to the entrance were security booths. Now, trucks and workers are checked as they enter the area. Because, although it takes a team to build something there should be a limit to who participates (for obvious reasons – you don’t want Andy falling into the pit and breaking both legs a la Parks and Rec). Same with a story. You don’t want to let everyone and their mother weigh in on your world building. I find that it’s important to limit who you let in during the initial phases of story building.

4. Problems and issues are unavoidable – during the construction of this stadium there have already been issues and setbacks. Weather, for one. And the estimated budget for the build has already been in dispute. The same is true for your story. Just like you want conflict in your plot (it moves things along). Building the world will likely lead you headfirst into questions without answers. Or answers that unravel everything you’ve already built. This happens. And this is okay. You want these problems in the same way you want feedback – so you can make your story better/stronger/faster….wait no, that’s the million dollar man. Scratch ‘faster’ and the point is still valid. You want your world to be water tight. Poking holes in it early during the development helps you create the plugs that will later be invaluable to your story.

5. You gotta eat – or, in other words, you must take breaks. Most of us know that taking a break during work allows us to come back with a clearer, more refreshed mind. This is absolutely the case with construction workers. And it should be the case with your world building as well. Taking breaks is easy to forget and even easier to bump to the bottom of the priority ‘to-do list’ but it’s essential. Sometimes stepping away from a world building construction zone is exactly what you need in order to tackle that problem you’ve been facing. It’s okay to take breaks, in fact, it’s best for all involved, that you do take breaks.

Happy building!

Monday, April 4, 2016

National Poetry Month - Jeffery McDaniel

If you follow this blog you know I have a deep love for poetry - the music of the written word. Even as a child I globbed onto verse with chubby, dirty, hands. It's my first love.

And with April being National Poetry Month I feel it is right to kick it off with one of my favorite contemporary poets, Jeffery McDaniel.

Watch this video of Jeffery performing his poem, The Ben Franklyn of Monogamy. Enjoy.

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