Monthly Archives: March 2014

Joy & Sorrow: The Early Days of a Writing Career

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Last week’s Prairie Schooner e-newsletter featured an interview with Adam Zagajewski titled, “The Border Between Sadness & Joy,” where Zagajewski discusses success:

I think success is the enemy of the poet. Poetry arises out of inner life; out of some contemplation, sometimes out of lament, and success creates an artificial reality. It’s not you− if you happen to be acclaimed. I haven’t reached this degree of success, luckily, but I can imagine there is a degree of success that cuts you away from real life, from real people.

Last time, I mentioned contacting fellow writers. In her response, Lisa Fay Coutley said, “It’s exciting, those earlier days of meandering and working your ass off. If that’s where you are, in a lot of ways, I think that’s the best part. It’s like new love. Enjoy it!”

For me, this adventure is like being a new mother. No one can possibly articulate how difficult it will be. On the same hand, no one can possibly describe how rewarding it can be.

As K.M. Weiland describes, “The magic ingredient in fiction is that special something that socks readers right in the gut and leaves them breathless with joy or sorrow (or maybe wabi-sabi, the Japanese term for that impossibly beautiful combination of the two).” (Outlining Your Novel, 66)

This July I will deliver my fifth baby. Because they arrive without specific care instructions each child is a beautiful mystery. Like Adam Zagajewski, I haven’t reached the degree of success that removes a writer from reality. I only know the magic of discovery involved with each new creation of poetry or fiction, and the overwhelming feeling of wabi-sabi that inevitably comes each time. And I will take Lisa Fay Coutley’s advice and enjoy it while it lasts.

~ Jennifer

Reaching Out

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I’ve been inspired by many wonderful contemporary poets, some only in the first stages of their careers–like me. I recently contacted many of them, along with some whose careers are established. To my surprise, everyone replied! Some were humbled by my note and all were delighted to hear I enjoyed their work. Both Eric Torgersen (author of the poem “Not Literature” in Pleiades, among many other works) and Joe Weil (whose Mar. 21 publication with Boston Review, “My Mother Reading in the Land of the Dead,” first compelled me to initiate contact with these writers) expressed relief that someone had read their poems. More partial to readings than publications, Joe said, “I like direct contact with an audience, and publication is often like putting a message in a bottle. You have no idea how the work is being received.”

I often wonder if anyone sees what I have published. I want to belong to a community of writers, but I have the problem Eric mentioned in his reply: “If you live in a somewhat out of the way place, it’s hard to sense that anybody out there is reading these things we put out.” I write for our local newspaper, and often get complimentary notes from loyal readers. With a limited readership, though, I want to reach a larger audience. I hope to impact fellow writers the way they have influenced me. In short, if you’ve read something I’ve written and either loved or hated it, please contact me. No writer wants to place their work in a bottle and sail it off to some unknown land without discovering who it actually reached. So let me know you’re out there reading away, and tell me about your journey of toil and creation.

~ Jennifer

A Family in Grief: The Final Meeting with Fisher

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This is, by far, the most difficult article I’ve written. Of course, the majority of the words are Adriann Anderson’s. In her March 6 entry on her blog, “Fisher’s Journey Up the Mountain,” Adriann spoke directly to her infant son, Fisher, who died unexpectedly on Jan. 14, 2014. Adriann talks about Fisher’s tragic death and the steps she and husband, Ben, have taken to convince hospitals to change procedures that contributed to his death. This article is an adaptation of that entry, and a raw and honest look into the grief process of a Midwestern mother.

A Family in Grief: The Final Meeting with Fisher (Corydon Times-Republican, March 24, 2014)

Fisher Anderson

Organizing My Ideas: yWriter and K.M. Weiland’s “Outlining Your Novel”

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I’m beginning a new YA novel that threatens to be a complicated mess if I don’t figure out a good way to organize it. As a college composition instructor, I continuously preach the importance of prewriting exercises, including the great and wonderful outline. I searched for a book to help me with this, because I felt a little overwhelmed by all of my ideas and didn’t know how I should organize them into a coherent storyline.

I happened upon K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success. I’m only three chapters into it, but she’s already provided some priceless help. Thus far, I’ve written my “perfect review,” based on her advice:

Often, when we begin writing a story, our ideas are hazy, and the final shape of the story is only a dim outline in the mist. The story we put on the page will never be a perfect representation of the story in our imagination, so it’s little wonder we aren’t always aware of where our stories fall short. But here’s a little trick to narrow the gap between your idealization of your story and its printed reality: Write yourself the “perfect” review before your story ever hits paper. (36-7)

She also recommends downloading yWriter from spacejock.com. This program provides an organizer that allows you to enter chapter summaries, scene descriptions, character bios, and a plethora of other information about your projects. It took about two minutes for it to download and it was completely FREE! I’ll spend some time playing around with it, but it looks like an asset to anyone who needs a bit of extra help organizing their thoughts. ~ Jennifer