Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges — A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

Archive for the tag “collaboration”

Make Visible: End of the Year Self-Evaluation for Writers

The end of the year is a fantastic time to evaluate one’s writing life with an eye to the future.  It’s a time to look at the big picture and see if you have met, exceeded, or fallen short of your self-created writing goals for the year.  This self-evaluation was inspired by the Graduate School post, Check in With Yourself: End of Semester Self-Evaluation.  I’ve found that doing a regular self-evaluation is a great tool for reflection on my graduate school experiences.  This evaluation is not an excuse for you to beat yourself up; instead it will allow you to get a clearer picture of your writing life.

Consider your responses to these questions.  It might help to actually write them down.  🙂

Consider the last year:

  • How did my year begin?
  • What were my submission plans, writing goals, and marketing plans (if applicable)?
  • Did I allocate enough time for writing, typing and editing my work?
  • Were my expectations met?
  • What surprised me this year?
  • If I could do anything over, what would I choose?  What would I do differently?
  • What are my writing strengths and witnesses?
  • How might I address these weaknesses?
  • How can I augment these strengths?
  • What have I learned this year?  About writing?  About subjects of interest to me?  Personally?

After thoughtful consideration, what can you conclude about your year?  What will you do differently next year?

Some ideas to think about for 2012:

Set aside regular times to write.  Be flexible.  If you are a morning person write in the mornings, if not, write in the afternoons or evenings.  Consider investing in writing prompt books or get writing prompts off the internet, so you are not stuck for ideas.  Remember, writers write!

Consider collaborating on a writing project with a writing friend or online critique group.  Collaborating is a great way to support one another while holding each other accountable.

Take time at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012 to revisit your writing goals.  Are they too ambitious or not ambitious enough?  Can you break your goals down into smaller, more manageable steps?  If you haven’t made any writing goals, is it time to do so?  Think about sharing your writing goals with supportive family members and friends.  Do you have any deadlines looming?  Make a note of those and give yourself time to meet them.

Reflect on any Works in Progress (WIPs) you have.  Is it time to let your WIPs go or is it time to breathe new life into a WIP?

Every year is a new beginning.  A new year is a great time to establish good writing habits and to reflect on the past year.  It’s also a good time to congratulate yourself on what you accomplished in 2011 and realize what you did right. See you in 2012!

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Our Virtual Global Village and Lifeline

It takes a virtual global village for words to become a worthy poem. Ours extended from Australia, Nova Scotia and Montreal, Canada, to Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area — our mentors and Publisher — besides our scattered band of poets.

We must also mention the broader world’s contribution: almost all of our poems started from on-line writing prompts — especially Poetic Asides PAD Challenges (Poem A Day) in April and November 2009, and the April Haiku Challenges at Forward Motion. How they ended up were very different, but that spark and the need to write daily (or as close as we could come to it), shoved our inner critics away and we wrote.

Each of us also worked with local critique groups, who helped hone our words, thoughts, and shared their reactions. Each poem is stronger for that lifeline. One of mine in particular, written when my brother was dying, led to an hour-long discussion with my local group, and several rewrites on my part. So, thank you “P-42” for being there for me, and Scott at Tsunami Bookstore, for hosting not only this poetry group, but all the other community events to support local artists, writers, and musicians. I did my first Open Mic at Tsunami, with an encouraging crowd.

We all applied these insights as we worked with each other. One of the best things a colleague said about one of my poems was that part of it didn’t make sense. After I got over the initial shock, I realized I was too close to it to see what was wrong. That one is not only stronger for the criticism, but is much closer to what I intended to write.

Over the next few months, we will share what we’ve learned about critique groups (on-line and in-person), tips for setting schedules, levels of review, how to ask for what you want in a review, how to give and receive feedback, how we’ve provided each other with encouragement and strategic kicks when needed, and how to work towards goals.

We have many other topics planned, since we come from such diverse backgrounds and interests. We hope you enjoy meeting us, will join in the discussion as we all grow, and encourage you to find your voice and courage to try, just as we did, and are still doing.

We’re very excited that our collaboration has led to this beautiful book, Lifelines, which is now available at (see sidebar). We’re working on ideas to include our local bookstores, too.

If you read our book, we’d love to have you post a review on, and to send us a copy for our blog.  Thank you!

Six Minds as One

It’s been a long road, giving us a new appreciation for what it takes to put together a collection of poetry, especially an anthology from six very different poets.

When we did decide to put together an anthology, our initial theme was the Greek Muses. We brought together existing poems, and wrote some new ones, each attributed to a muse.

We used Google Documents to share our work and make commenting and organization easier. If we’d had to rely on exchanging email, well, we’d still be sending poems back and forth. We used a spreadsheet to make voting for top poems straightforward and hassle-free. Margaret was our tech goddess in all of this.

Our first draft version didn’t work, so we came back together to figure out what to do instead. It simply didn’t have the overlying narrative arc that is the key to a really good poetry collection.

We looked for a new theme that could tie this eclectic group of poems together. Water came up a couple of times, and Michele mentioned the ebb and flow. With that, Mary began to have a vision. The ebb and tide of life, the heart, the world. She wanted to explore this further, so volunteered to take control and see what she could do in the matter of organizing. Once Mary split everything into different stages of life, she was inspired with the theme poem, the tide’s effects as it comes and goes in our lives. Finally our poems had a story, a flow that felt right. The others agreed.

Throughout this entire process, Michele kept us together. It was her bull-headedness that kept us pushing forward even when we struggled. Michele who got our wonderful mentors involved, and had the connections to pitch our project to InkSpotter.

So now the anthology is about to “go live.” It’s been three years since the day that Lisa Gentile couldn’t connect to the internet, leaving moderator Michele Graf to organize a spontaneous chat.

A collection of poetry is more than the sum of its parts. It’s the cumulative effect of each poem, one after the other, leading the reader from one to the other to create a unified whole. Without the unifying principle we have a stack of paper. With it we have an anthology.


by Mary W. Jensen and Margaret Fieland

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