RoadWriter

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

Archive for the tag “inspiration”

Using Music to set A Mood

WP_20130517_002A recent post  on MuseItUp Publishing’s blog on using music  to set a mood set me to considering the subject. Although I don’t usually listen to music when I write — I’m a serious amateur musician and often find myself listening to the music — I do make use of musical references in the poems I write.

I’ve written more than one poem containing references to popular songs. In Crack Up, the first poem below, I was listening to the radio when a Kenny Chesney song came on, and I started composing the poem below in my head. I ended up on Kenny’s website looking for the songs I needed to complete the poem as I envisioned it.

In the second poem, Green Peas, I was already very familiar with the songs involved, and hopefully y’all are, too.

Do you listen to music while you work? How do you use musical references in your own writing, and how do you react to them in the writing of others? Leave a comment and let me know.

Crack Up

Swish through car-lit darkness
Past squares of light,
street signs sparkling green and white.
Roll down your window,
feel the lemon air
ruffle what’s left of your hair.
Kenny Chesney blaring on the radio
loud enough to silence the thoughts in your head
waiting to be drowned in a cold beer.

Your wheels slide through ghosts of clouds,
past skeleton trees waving bare arms,
past lighted windows with families eating
roast chicken, green beans, potatoes
while the letter from your daughter
crinkles in your back pocket,
your seat belt chafing as
Kenny croons Who you’d Be Today.

The smell of leaf smoke drifts
through the window
as you drive at twenty-five miles per hour
past the cop in the turn-out on your left,
as the rain starts dripping down your windshield
and your windshield wipers quit.
You reach for a beer
as Kenny starts singing Keg in the Closet.

Your car drifts into the center of the road
as you drop the empty on the floor,
reach behind you for another,
one hand on the wheel.
The car skids on wet leaves
going around that curve in the road
you forgot was there
and Kenny sings Steamy Windows.

The sweat drips down your neck
as you wrestle with the steering wheel,
brake on the empties,
your seat belt unfastened.
Skid into the tree.
Glass arrows your cheek your eye.
You’re bleeding from your ear.
Somewhere Kenny’s singing How Forever Feels.

Green Peas, A poem-song

1. Mom: Tune: Greensleeves

Alas my son you know it’s wrong
to leave the table discourteously.
Don’t give me “pretty please,” come along.
Sit down and finish your green peas.

2: Son: Tune: Red River Valley

How can you serve these peas, knowing
I hate them; I’ve told you six times.
Don’t give me that stuff about growing.
You must think that I’m still a child!

3: Sister: Tune: Sixteen Tons

Sixteen year old, is this what I get?
If you want to chase me out, well, now you’re all set.
If Peter calls, just say I’m out, that’s all you know.
Can’t stay another minute, Mom, I’ve got to go.

4: Dad: Tune: Good King Wenceslas

What’s this fighting all about?
Please give me a reason.
Everyone can hear you shout
clear over at the Gleason’s.

Give him a break just for tonight,
you are being cruel.
All you do is scream and shout.
I think you’re a fool.

5: Mom: Tune: Greensleeves

Green peas were for the boy,
but green peas aren’t worth a fight.
Green peas have brought no joy.
Forget about eating those green peas.

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The Evolution of a Story pt 1

I have multiple novels in various stages. Sometimes I have a basic idea, but not enough for characters or plot. I always write these down anyways. If I’m bored, I’ll pull up my idea file and see if any of the bits and pieces will work together.

I want to share with you the notes and evolution of how my current project came together. All these notes came at completely different times and from unrelated places.

ideas

ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Idea 1

Someone who lives to their beliefs. Mental expectation defines our reality. Refusing to belief that flight is impossible. A person lives by their own set of rules. What others see as tricks and magic is reality for this person. Anything is possible if you believe.

Idea 2

two best friends from childhood, begin to grow apart. the guy stops writing. she continues, unaware that he is throwing her letters away without reading them. The guys roommate gets curious and opens them. he falls for her through the letters. when she writes about interest in a guy, he gets jealous, has to meet her.

Idea 3

Story about the Crazy Lady:

They call me crazy. I’m not crazy. Just different. I’m happy. I can’t help expressing it. They don’t understand me, because they have not experienced my happiness.

Story

It wasn’t until later that I came back to this notes and realized they could all be combined into one story. Each alone is only a concept, a character, a setting. But combined together we can begin to see a STORY. Suddenly I had three characters: a “crazy” woman who believes in magic and writes letters to her old friend, and the roommate who intercepts these letters.

I still wasn’t ready to write the story. It needed rules, conflict. But the combined ideas gave it a shape, popped it out of 2D and into 3D. So that’s my advice for today. Always write down your ideas, no matter how small. And if you cut a character from a story, or a line from a poem, save that as well. You never know where it might find a fit later.

If you don’t have anything in your idea file, or can’t find a way to make any of your ideas fit for a story, don’t be afraid to use prompts. There are plenty of prompt generators online. Feel free to use different ones, mix and match. Get a character here, a setting there. The more ideas you can combine, the more depth your story will have.

Resources

Here are a few places for free writing prompts

Seventh Sanctum: A personal favorite. In addition to story prompts, has a lot of other random generators.

Writers Digest Boot Camp has a download for two full weeks of prompts.

Hundreds of little prompts at Creative Writing Prompts

And if you’re more visual, try out Writing Picture Prompts

Next time on Mary’s Expression (March 19): Evolution of a Story continues

 

Mary Butterfly Signature

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Looking back on November: Poem a day

Again this year I participated in Robert Lee Brewer’s November Poem A Day challenge. The poems are supposed to form a chapbook, but I wasn’t aiming for that. I simply wanted to write poetry.

My muse has been in an un-serious mood most of the month. I’ve done a lot of rhyming and a lot of, well …

Here are a couple of poems:
Poetic Formless

Dust like stars. Any storm in a port. The eye of my apple. Dust the bite.  Blind a turned eye. Fuse a blow. Worm an open can. A death worse than fate. Ice the break. Knot the tie. A society of pillars.

Moons with rock piles made of diamonds, worlds of water where huge ships sail, never reaching shore, jungles full of purple cows, green tigers, and yellow elephants, dragons, fairies two feet tall, ten-foot-tall giants, magic wands, movies that turn themselves on with a blink of an eye.

My car sprouts helicopter wings. I look down on the cars lined up on route 95 as it winds through downtown Providence, and I open my mouth and sing, loudly, beautifully on pitch, remembering all the words.

The Truth about Truth

I desire a Truth
in my Christmas stocking.
Instead, in my head,
I hear a voice mocking.

“Truth’s much too fat
to be hung from a ledge
above a hot fire.”
Alas, though I pledge

she’ll never get burned,
she just shakes her large head.
Perhaps I will dream her
tonight in my bed.

She’ll plop on my blanket,
speak low in my ear.
I hope I’ll be able
to shut up and hear.

When He’s Gone

Alas, my laptop, Joe, is dead.
He tripped and fell right on his head.
The light went off. I almost cried,
the night my laptop, Joseph, died.

I had another laptop, Lou.
Unfortunately, he’s finished, too.
I spilled some coffee on his head,
and now my laptop, Lou, is dead.

Alas, I fear I’ll be offline
until November 12 at nine
AM when I return to work,
and leap onto my desktop, Kirk.

So for a time, I bid adieu
while I consider what to do:
to buy another or repair
or find someone who has a spare.

 

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Waiting to hear on a proposal for a workshop

I got email from the Mass Poetry festival letting me know they’d received my workshop proposal. Fortunately they copied the email I sent them, because I forgot to save a copy.

I don’t know if they will go for it, but, hey, at least I sent it in.

Workshop

Even if we don’t suffer from writer’s block, we often dismiss our ideas before they have a chance to develop. How many times has a line of poetry popped into your mind only to be dismissed? A subject you dismissed as trite or as something you’d never write about? What are you afraid to tackle?

Don’t let your inner editor choke you off before you start. This workshop will include a series of exercises designed to free your inner muse.
Equipment Needs

  • Table for Presenters
  • Chairs for Presenters
  • Dry erase board
  • Paper and pencils

Target Audience: Anyone who wants to dig deeper and free themselves from their own critical thinking.What makes this distinctive and compelling? We’re all inclined to doubt the worth of our own work and to not pay attention to what it is we want/need to write. We will use group writing exercises as a warm-up to generating poetry, brainstorm starting lines for poems, write poems from various points-of-view: ex mother-in-law, best friend from high school, glass of water on your nightstand, unused computer keys. Anything goes.

This workshop is meant to be fun, to generate some ideas the participants to take away, and to start to develop some techniques they can use to get started when inspiration fails to strike.

Publicity & Audience Development Plan *I blog monthly on writersonthemove.com, twice monthly on poetic-muselings.net, and on my own blog, as well as guest blogging. I would use these to promote the workshop.

I’d promote on facebook and twitter, try for an article in my local papers, community tv station, and on internet and regular radio as well as emailing my list of contacts about the workshop.

Have you produced this or a similar program before? If so when and where? *I am one of the six Poetic Muselings. We presented a workshop, “Poetry: Not just for writing verse,” at the Muse Online Writers Conference this October.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes We Stumble

It’s been almost a year since I wrote the following in response to a discussion question on Why do I Write? It spiraled further than I was expecting, and it’s something I keep circling back to.

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write. From my very first stories in first grade, and the encouraging words of my teacher, and my love of books. Even as my other interests varied, the desire to be an author when I grew up remained constant. Books were my escape (which being an introvert with eight siblings was much needed), and I wanted to create my own worlds, share that wonder with readers. Now writing has become an escape for me, much as reading has been.

Fantasy has always inspired me. Creating fantastical worlds, or bringing the fantastic into our own. In writing I try to capture that magic. And when it works, when I can read something I wrote and get carried away, and think “I actually wrote that!”, is a form of magic in itself. A huge sense of accomplishment. There really isn’t anything in life that affects me the same way.

In high school I finally started being serious about writing. Wrote and submitted poetry, even got a few published. Wrote short stories. Started plotting out my novel. But it wasn’t for another couple years that I really started writing that novel. Each new page, each chapter, excited me. I was finally going after my dream. And I had the wonderful support of one of my sisters who was also writing *her* first book. So we read and praised each others work, challenged each other to deadlines, and actually managed to finish the same month.

Having already experienced the challenges of getting published through my efforts with poetry and short stories, I knew enough to edit my book before sending it out. And while I edited, I researched publishing. Learned I wanted to target an agent before tackling the big publishers. So after a year of editing (with the feedback of a couple beta readers, and many drafts), I used QueryTracker to help me find agents for my genre and charged forward gungho. One year later, fifty queries behind me with only a sparse handful of requests and no serious feedback or bites… I figured something must be seriously wrong with my first novel and didn’t know how to fix it. So I benched it.

I had already started a couple of novels at this point, so the new goal was to finish a second book. That was two [now three] years ago. I’ve been struggling ever since. I love my stories, I’ve heard my writing has improved massively since my first book, and I can spend hours plotting, doing character work, research. But when it comes to the actual writing I tend to freeze up. I’ve tried many techniques, but the writing still comes in inconsistent spurts. So I write less often… and get even more out of the habit. But those story ideas are still pestering. And when I read what I *do* have, I know it needs work but that excitement and love is still there.

Maybe I am afraid. All that frustration trying to publish my first book, all those hours, a total of nine revisions, multiple query rewrites and all those rejections… Why would I want to put so much work into another project only to see it fail too? I read these wonderful books that I can’t put down, and feel I can’t compete, that no matter how much I write I’ll always fall short.

Back to the present: The only light in the tunnel was a few days after posting this, we heard word that Lifelines was to be published. That gave me focus for a while. But now I’m emotionally back to this same space. Any advice for a struggling writer?

Margaret's Senryu

My Senryu, and fun with GIMP.

I’ve been having a blast lately playing with the color manipulation functions with GIMP, though I have yet to read the book I bought that goes through all the features. Consequently, I have a nice directory full of road photos, a great many of which I’ve played with using GIMP.

Last night Michele emailed me and asked me if I could take today’s blog post and create a Senryu. So I grabbed an image from my Pictures directory and wrote about it.

Night Road

Night Road, photo by me, digital manipulation courtesy of GIMP

Psychedelic sky

Dream made visible

Night Road, photo by me, digital manipulation courtesy of GIMP

Poetic Forms: Sestina

Arnaut Daniel.

Image via Wikipedia

The sestina is a poetic form attributed to twelfth century French troubadour Arnaut Daniel. It consists of six six-line stanzas and a three line envoy. The six end words of the first stanza cycle in a pattern thusly:

ABCDEF/FAEBDC/CFDABE/ECBFAD/DEACBF/BDFECA

and an envoy whose form varies somewhat, but which uses all six end words:

BE/DC/FA

or

FA/DC/BE

How to choose your end words

There are doubtless many ways to choose ones end words One is to write the first stanza and then lay out the pattern for the rest. The other, the one I use, is to pick six words, generate the skeleton, and start writing. I try to choose words with more than one meaning and that can be used as more than one part of speech.

Here is a link to a sestina generator: Feed it your six words and it spits out a skeleton with the six stanzas and envoy:
dilute.net/sestinas

Here is a link to sestina by Ezra Pound:

//www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15423

Here are the first two stanzas;

I

Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come! Let’s to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah! when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.

II

In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth’s foul peace,
And the lightnings from black heav’n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God’s swords clash.

Here is one of mine:

Polemic

Workers, you are choked by the collar
of convention. Will you spare
yourselves? Will you ever tire
of the endless round of days, brave
the waters of controversy and refuse to play it safe?
Will you strike a blow

for self expression? Will you blow
down the artificial walls your white collar
has erected around you? Will you leave the safe
space you create in the spare
confines of your tiny cubicle? As you brave
each new day, do you ever tire

of the endless wheel of useless make work? The tire
of useless flesh grows round your middle. You puff and blow
climbing a single flight of stairs. How brave
are you? As you lounge, idle, the shirt collar
around your neck grows ever tighter, until there is no spare
room, and you choke. When will it be safe

to throw your old shirt away? What will jolt you from your safe
little life? What would be enough to make you tire
of the endless round of dailyness? Spare
yourself and live, not merely exist. Blow
the clouds from your eyes. White collar
workers, unite. Take a chance. Be brave.

Allow yourselves to brave
unknown waters, to give up your safe
small space, to throw away your collar
and try the new. Rise from your chairs. Retire
from the rat race. Overturn your desk. Blow
your boss’s mind and run from your office. Spare

yourselves. You have no spare
life. You have one chance to be brave.
You will never get another chance to blow
away the small, safe
walls around you before you tire
and are choked by your white collar.

You cannot spare yourself and stay safe.
Let yourself be brave. Throw away the tire
of convention. Strike a blow for life. Throw out your white collar.

Margaret Fieland

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Make Visible: By Art Inspired

 Art sometimes inspires me to write poetry. Below are two paintings and the poems they inspired. Please read Lin’s post A New Way of Looking: Ekphrasis for an introduction to this idea. It is often not enough to just see a painting and write; sometimes research into the subject or the artist is helpful.  I researched James Joyce for the poem, “Joyce.”  The painting was incorrectly titled “Joyce in the City” on another website, where I was inspired to write the poem.  The correct name for the painting is Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte, 1877.

Paris Street, Rainy Day

Joyce

Plotting out your novel
in the rain,
or so I imagine.
I struggled with Ulysses,
didn’t get past the first five pages
to be honest.

You wouldn’t kneel
at your mother’s bedside,
standing up against Catholicism
even in death.

Your get rich quick schemes
failed, until you acquired a patron.
Still you squandered the money
every chance
on wine.

We’ll never know much about
your daughter,
the letters burned
by an overzealous relative.

Many eye surgeries later,
Joyce and an umbrella,
woman on his arm,
in the rain.

The second painting, The Little Deer by Frida Kahlo, 1946, also inspired a poem.  I dug a little deeper into the research for this painting.  The surrealism of the painting is reflected in this poem, “A Painting.”

The Little Deer

A Painting

You let your guard down
Didn’t see the hunter’s orange vest
Or didn’t care
Can the mute speak?
Still you run through the woods
You should be dead
A stag with the face of a woman
countenance as mysterious as the Mona Lisa’s
Run, deer, run
As if the plague were after you
As if followed by Roman soldiers
Aching to martyr.

What can you take away from this?  If you need inspiration, look online for paintings to inspire your writing.  They can be modern art, classical, fine art, or even photographs.  You don’t have to research the subject of the painting or photograph or the artist, but  it adds depth to the final work.

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