Friday, April 18, 2014

Being a Guest

Today I have a guest post on Julia Tomiak's Diary of a Word Nerd blog. It talks about Jazz Poetry and some of my experience with it. Click the following link to visit the blog:

Julia is a member of the online community Wordsmith Studio. She is a self-proclaimed word nerd who likes to help people learn new words and find good books to read. She also writes fiction.

Thank you, Julia, for giving me the opportunity to do my first guest post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ten Things I've Learned from Wordsmith Studio

As part of its April birthday celebration, Wordsmith Studio is posting weekly prompts that inspire us to share our experiences with the community. This week's prompt asks us to share how our writing life has been affected by WSS. Thanks to Rebecca Barray for this prompt.

Following is a list of 10 things, in no particular order, that I have learned since joining Wordsmith Studio. I included some general lessons that I think are important.

  • The back of the class is the place to be.
  • How to grow a Word Garden.
  • There is another university besides Syracuse whose sports teams wear Orange.
  • How to better handle (sob) rejection.
  • Calvies are pretty darn cute.
  • If I take on a challenge, I'll have support.
  • I'm a pantser.
  • Word sprints rock.
  • Time zones can be a challenge.
  • Chatting on Twitter is a blast [Note: We chat every Tuesday at #wschat at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. You're welcome to join in.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poetry and Emotion

I mentioned in my last post that Wordsmith Studio holds weekly Twitter chats on Tuesday night (#wschat). This past Tuesday, we chatted about poetry. During one of the chats, the thought was expressed that some people may shy away from or even fear reading poetry because it may elicit an emotional reaction.

A few years ago, I wrote a poem called, Lifetime Guarantee. It talks about the staying power of emotions. As the link notes, I had gone to see an exhibit about the year 1968. As I was going through it, I started to feel uncomfortable, sad and pretty drained. I finally realized that I was feeling some of the emotions that I had felt when the various events that occurred that year had taken place.

Last November, I read "JFK Assassination a Collective Memory for American Children" on the CNN blog. Here is a quote from the  piece:

Flashbulb memories, as they're called by memory experts, are vivid remembrances of significant events; a mental snapshot of the who, what, when and where -- and the emotional fallout.
These memories, according to neuroscience writer and professor W.R. Klemm, can be particularly reinforced by the images associated with them.

Although 50 years had passed, I was able to put together a pretty detailed description of hearing the news of President Kennedy's assassination in the poem, Where I Was. And yes, I did cry when I was writing it. I also had a strong emotional reaction to other poet's work on the same topic.

Because of my involvement with a bereavement support group, I have become more comfortable with expressing my emotions. In fact, I have told the group that I probably never would have started writing poetry if I hadn't attended the group.

What are your thoughts about the emotional reactions triggered by poetry? Have you dealt with this in your writing or reading? Does it make you uncomfortable or have you come to terms with it?

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Celebrating Wordsmith Studio

Virtual Support

Social media was perplexing.
I had barely started texting.
Then, I came across a challenge
to increase my social media knowledge.
Others wanted to do the same.
All of a sudden, it was like a game.
We shared our successes and concerns.
We supported each other as we learned.
When it was time to say goodbye,
the call came out “Why don’t we try
to keep up this online community?”
Many took advantage of the opportunity.
Now, Wordsmith Studio is two years old.
The potential of this group is still untold.

Wordsmith Studio is a web community for writers that grew out of a challenge, "Build your Writer Platform in 30 Days". Take a look  at the website to learn more about the community and its members. We hold weekly chats on Twitter each Tuesday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Central time. Use the hashtag, #wschat, to get into the discussion.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Explore Poetry

Today is the first day of April and that means it's the first day of National Poetry Month. The Academy of American Poets started National Poetry Month in 1996 as a vehicle to spotlight the art, poets past and present, and poetry publications.

This year, I'd like you to think about exploring poetry this month. How? Here are a few ideas:

1. Search for poetry about subjects that interest you. I think you will be surprised to see what turns up. In February, I was asked to read a classic love poem at an event. I did a search for jazz love poems and found my way to this beautiful piece by Langston Hughes:

Juke Box Love Song   

2. Look into the history of poetry in your community. Perhaps you will find a connection to a well-known poet or simply a local poet whose work you enjoy. I found out that Lucille Clifton was born in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y., as was I. There is about a 14-year span during which we lived there at the same time.

3. Check out your current local poetry scene. What are the literary organizations in your area? What venues hold poetry readings? Do bookstores or libraries carry books by local poets?

4. Is National Poetry Month celebrated in your community? In the metropolitan Kansas City (Mo) area, the Johnson County (KS) Library and The Writers Place partner to present a Poem-A-Day on the library's website in April. Here is the link to the program:

This is just one of the ways National Poetry Month is celebrated in my area. Find out if there are any activities in your area, then join in!

Related Links

How do you like to explore poetry?

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jazz Appreciation Month


Move to their 
own beat, but
keep the melody.
Improvise, and
work in harmony.
Sing the blues, yet
make it through.
Jump sometimes,
Bop in long lines, or
merge in fusion.
Never stop swingin’.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. This initiative has been spear-headed by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Go to for a history of the initiative and information regarding this year's celebration.

In perusing the Smithsonian's site, I realized that there are three L's that can help us participate in this month-Learn, Listen and Local.

  1. Learn more about the art form. This includes the history and contemporary jazz. Read a book or do research online.  The Smithsonian Jazz Site has oral histories of NEA Jazz Masters. You may listen or read a transcript. The site also has the "Today in Jazz History" calendar, which gives you a day-by-day accounting of some of the music's most important events.
  2. Listen to the music. After all, that is really what the art form is about. Settle in with some old favorites or use your research to explore some new artists. 
  3. Support your local musicians, clubs and radio stations. If there is a museum or musicians birthplace in your area support that, too. Art inspires other art so there may be jazz poets or visual artists who incorporate jazz influences in their work. Give them a look or listen, too.
Most importantly, continue to enjoy and celebrate the music all year long.

Related links

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tournament Time

Tournament Time

The ball travels
 from hand to floor
        hand to floor
         hand to floor.
The rhythm as steady
as the clock ticking down.

Suddenly, the thumping stops.
The player takes the shot.
Will it be a swish?
Kiss the backboard and drop in?
Clang! It ricochets off the rim.

Game over.
Another team gets bounced.

Thanks to Carol Early Cooney for this week's Wordsmith Studio Creative Prompt-Bounce.  What's your response to bounce? Put a link to it in the comments on the prompt post.

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