My story is the autobiography of a busted jukebox, with its soundtrack of contemplation and reluctant silence and an unfulfilled desire to croon ballads it doesn’t have the voice to sing. I sit unused in backrooms where jokers are still wild, philosophers sit atop barstools, and bad advice flows sweeter than any liquor poured in excess.

Secondhand Inspiration: April = National Poetry Month

April is almost here. Which means it's time for National Poetry Month. Below are several sites/resources for those always-helpful prompts to write poetry. Since I’ve been creatively constipated lately, I'm looking forward to using these offerings to help kick-start my poetry practice in April.

2015 Poetic Asides PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge

Poetry Super Highway Prompt-A-Day for National Poetry Month

NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)

Spark: Sound Advice for Author Websites

This brilliant and concise article by Jane Friedman provides authors, whether they have a book published or not, with wonderful guidelines for putting together an author website.

Some of the advice she has written here I already have put into practice, but I see many other suggestions that I need to consider for the future. As Ms. Friedman states, “Your website is never finished.”

Check out the link below if you are considering building a website from scratch or improving the web presence you currently have.

Guidelines are guidelines-not suggestions.

The well-written piece by C. Hope Clark linked below talks about the pitfalls of writers not following submission guidelines or familiarizing themselves with a publication before sending their work in. When you think about it, doing these two things can reduce wasted energy by both writers and editors.

Spark: Kurt Vonnegut Writing Tips

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Advice for New Authors who are Giving a Reading

“What makes a successful reading: what one author learned while preparing for his debut” – here’s  some insightful advice for struggling authors from Josh Cook, who has the perspective of being both a bookstore employee and a debut author.

The (Bleak) Future of University Quarterlies.

This is something of interest for writers of all genres who are looking for venues for publication. Check out this informative essay on the future of university based quarterly lit mags on the Inside Higher Ed site. Warning - this is not the most uplifting take on this subject.

What I’ve Been Doing…

Over the last several weeks, after a short self-pitying slump about inspiration/ambition and all the other things writers find to complain about, I've hit a nice groove. As usual, I’m swinging between poetry and fiction, editing-wise and writing-wise.

These days I’m editing The Alter Ego Project chapbook (again) for submission to some contests, and also tinkering with a couple of stories. Once those are done I’ll turn to working on what I’ve tentatively dubbed The Field Guide project, a prose poem/narrative-in-verse of sorts. To say more than that now would jinx it.

Flame: Writing & Working Out

For me writing is a lot like exercise. If it hurts, that means it's working, and in the end it always produces positive results.

This analogy is bolstered by the fact that when I’m successfully sticking to my workout regimen, I concurrently do a better job of consistently writing as well. It’s as if the discipline and dedication required for fitness unconsciously bleeds into the creative realm of my life. Or maybe staying in good physical shape also helps my mind become fit, and provides me with focus when I sit down to write.

Does anyone else think there’s a correlation between personal fitness and creative endeavors?

Secondhand Inspiration: Kevin Young’s Essay on Langston Hughes

Occasioned by February being Black History Month, but worth reading at any time: Kevin Young on Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues.

Langston Hughes became one of my favorite poets when I first got serious about writing. After reading Kevin Young’s splendid essay about the context in which The Weary Blues was published (as well as background on the jazz aesthetic and blues form), I want to revisit some of Hughes work, both for muse and pleasure. Add that to my reading list.

Destroy and Rebuild.

“404 – Page Not Found”

“This page can’t be displayed”

While clicking some links on my oft-neglected Published Works and Links pages, the above messages were frequently encountered. I was saddened to discover my modest writing career has outlived several awesome journals, both online and print, and some contests that I once participated in.

I had many dead links, which isn’t effective in increasing the visibility of my writing. Therefore, I took some time to clean up the mess on these two pages and add some new links that connect to my recent work. Not a lot of glamor in that task, but it was necessary labor.

Flame: “How We Write About Love”

Happy Corporate Sponsored Synthetic Romance for Profit Day. Believe me…I'm not anti-love, but I am against the systematic pimping of love to spike revenues for no truly logical reason during mid-February.

On this Valentine’s Day, here are some keen observations on how we write about love, from Daniel Jones, who edits the “Modern Love” column for The New York Times. Enjoy.

Secondhand Inspiration: About Talent…

"Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won't carry a quitter." - Stephen King, from Duma Key

I’m not one to normally quote Stephen King, but he’s spot on with this statement – both in writing and everyday life.

Think about how many people you’ve known with immense talent or a knack for success. Then think about how many of those folks sustained that success. Proves one thing – there’s just no substitute for hard work.

Secondhand Inspiration: Insights from a Contest Judge

I present to other aspiring fiction authors this revealing article from Nina Badzin: “Your Cover Letter Does Not Matter, and Other Insights from a Contest Judge.”

Read it with an open mind and you’ll get something out of this piece. The keen thoughts Ms. Badzin has on carefully using the f-bomb in flash fiction is well worth the read.

burntdistrict - Volume 3, Issue 2

burntdistrict is a journal of contemporary poetry published by the editors of Spark Wheel Press.

Volume 3, Issue 2 features work from Julie Brooks Barbour, Jackson Burgess, Adriana Cloud, Rebecca Connors, Thomas Cook, Tim Craven, Sage Curtis, Nandini Dhar, Katherine Frain, Natalie Giarratano, Charles Harper Webb, Lydia Havens, Matthew Huff, Cindy Hunter Morgan, Lillian Kwok, Diane Lockward, Adam Love, Greg Mahrer, Bill Neumire, Angelina Oberdan, Simon Perchik, Amy Plettner, Adrian Potter, Richard Prins, Kim Roberts, Todd Robinson, Steven D. Schroeder, Leah Sewell, Molly Sutton Kiefer, and William Trowbridge.

I’m blessed to have two prose poems in this issue, both pieces from The Alter Ego Handbook chapbook manuscript that I’ve been tinkering with incessantly. This is my third time appearing in burntdistrict and I appreciate the support and exposure this publication has provided. I’m only partway through reading this issue, but so far it has been an enjoyable read.