Tag Archives: Poem

Saturday Writers Group: Names and Stanzas

14 Jul

Yet again, I’m way behind on getting these posts up. My Saturday group met on 7-June and this is just now being posted. I’m embarrassed!

One of our members is a talented poet, but she says the thing she struggles with most is stanza breaks in her poems, so this is something we always talk about with her work. The poem she brought had a series of illusions and we discussed if it was better to separate each illusion into its own stanza or to keep them in one stanza and let them bleed together. It the poem is about illusions, isn’t it good to let them become one and create an ultimate illusion? I feel there are some poems that work better in one stanza and others that need to be broken apart to clarify the meaning. When do you break a poem into stanzas?

Some books will have a character without a name, referred to as ‘the boy’ or ‘the mother.’ We talked about the effects of doing this. Does it give the characters a more universal appeal than ‘Brian’ or ‘Mrs. Horm’ would? Certain stories seem to need something like this where as others seem awkward when written this way. When is it okay to not name a character?

One of our members writes personal essays and this got me thinking. In real life, it’s likely that I have two friends named Cat (this happened in college). In real life, that’s fine; you create nicknames or say ‘Blonde Cat’ when talking about these people. But if I were to write a story and Cat and Cat appeared in it, should I change one of their names? Should I refer to one as Catherine and the other Cat? Is it okay to change people’s names to make a stronger distinction between them in a personal essay? When would you keep them the same?

I hope you like the shorter post! Until next time, write on.

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My First Rejection Letter

18 Dec

I knew this day would come, but being so close to the holidays, I was hoping to put it off. My first rejection letter came in the mail today. I just had a feeling it was a rejection letter as soon as I looked at it, not even touching it to see how thin it was. My heart seemed to stop when I saw my name in my own handwriting and a return address with a journal title. I imagine many of you reading this have had similar experiences.

Because I felt like I knew what was coming, I made myself ready for it. I had cookies prepared in the kitchen and I put on sweat pants. If that’s not ready for rejection, please tell me what is. When I picked it up to open, I saw how thin the envelope was and my heart sank. Permission to print forms were at least one, if not two, pages and this didn’t even feel like a full page. Wouldn’t an email have been more environmentally friendly?

Unsurprisingly, there as a third-of a page letter inside addressed ‘Dear Writer.’ I won’t print it here, but it was what I can only imagine is standard. “Thanks for your submission… We receive over 2,000 during our reading period… If you’d like to purchase your own copy…” Boiler plate. Cold.

Being the child of the 21st Century that I am, I turned immediately to Facebook (for the record, my husband wasn’t home). Within minutes, support was flooding in. My non-writing friends were sympathetic (“I’m sorry, 😦 ) and also supportive (“At least you had the guts to send something, like JK Rowling”). The best advice came from AP, who insists that I frame it. KK reminded me that everyone gets turned down, even the elites of writing. It’s funny that this happened to me today because I just finished the section of Stephen King’s On Writing where he talks about how consistently he was rejected when he first started writing. So timely. Another fellow writer said she’d gotten a rejection letter herself earlier that day, letting me know I’m not alone. Nicole offered to come reenact the scene from The Proposal where Sandra Bullock dances to “Get Low” with Betty White. I’m keeping that offer in my back pocket.

It’s ironic that this came the same day my “How to Date a Writer” post went up. I’d read the list to my husband when I found it and I guess he listened well because he was very polite about the letter and wouldn’t let it get me down. He offered me caramel popcorn (not chocolate, but still delicious) and reassured me that someone would want to publish my poem. Probably the best thing said to me was when he said “At least your first rejection is a poem and not your novel.” So true, Jay, so incredibly true.

I’m fortunate that a lot of good things happened yesterday that are equaled out by the letter. I got a $50 gift card, Jay got Christmas gifts from his catechism students, I was able to blow my mother-in-laws mind with how much I write (I think) and this morning I got my company Christmas gift. But underneath all of this, there’s a voice saying “Not good enough, not good enough!” I want to punch that little voice, but he’s nagging me.

So where do I go from here? I’ll take another look at the poem, maybe ask one or two more people to read it and tell me what they think. I’ll revise it a bit and then send it out again. I’ve pulled up two magazines already. I’m determined to see it in print, whatever form it ends up taking. I’m going to start a spreadsheet and keep track of where something’s submitted and when I get rejected so I can send it again. I’m going to put myself out there and let the rejections come if they will because I won’t know what I’m lacking until someone tells me.

Reader, I’m not going to ask for your sympathy. I’ll use my mom for that if I need to. What I want to hear from you is how you deal with rejection? Does it motivate you or make you cry in the corner? Did you get a rejection letter on Monday also?

Until next time, write on.