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“This is for us who sing, write, dance, act, study, run and love
and this is for doing it even if no one will ever know
because the beauty is in the act of doing.”
Dear Women Writer—
April is National Poetry Month, a celebration begun by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 to showcase the ways poetry matters in our daily lives. Most of us will remember the poetry of childhood. How we loved the sounds of books read to us, their rhythm and repetition, as well as the silliness. My life motto is derived from Horton the Elephant Hatches the Egg— “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!”
We at WWW know poetry matters! We celebrate poetry all year round. In February we hosted a poetry workshop. We often feature poems and poetry prompts in our newsletters. At monthly meetings, we discuss both poems and prose by members. In fact, this month’s blog, “Democracy Dripping,” is an art-inspired poem by member Lorraine Waldau.
Enliven your prose with sound and rhythm—
Borrowing elements of poetry can create energy in our prose, appealing to the reader’s inner ear. “A sentence is like a tune. A memorable sentence gives its emotion a melodic shape. You want to hear it again, say it—in a way, to hum it to yourself,” says poet Robert Pinsky.
Poets are laser-focused on the sounds of words: how words work, alone or together. Linguists consider word combinations such as ‘cellar door,” pleasing. Of course, unpleasant word sounds also have their place in our sentences. Words such as sleazy, slime, slug, and slush. And consider one word that makes some folks cringe—‘moist’. Another tool is repetition—chatter, glitter, flutter, and shatter, for example (Wikipedia).
Words with similar vowels and consonants improve the reader’s experience. And there is something comforting about repetition. Consider childhood books—Goodnight Moon and “I do not like green eggs. I do not like them Sam I Am.” Consider a famous first line from a 1776 essay by Thomas Paine— “These are the times that try men’s souls,” which remains famous because its rhythmic arrangement. Another useful way to create rhythm in prose is sentence variety. “The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony,” according to Gary Provost (read the whole wonderful quote here).
Here are two examples of sound and rhythm by contemporary prose authors—
From Maggie O’Farrell’s novel Hamnet—
- “The leaves crisping at their edges. Here is a season Hamnet has not known or touched. Here is a world moving on without him.”
From a personal essay by Leslie Jamison, “Baggage Claims” in Harpers—
- “She is a difficult woman from New York trying to convince me that we should be difficult women from New York together. But I’m not a difficult woman from New York. I’m not any kind of person from New York. I just happen to live there.”
These writers organize ordinary words into rhythmic sentences. O’Farrell hints at autumn by describing “leaves crisping.” She writes two consecutive sentences beginning with “here,” enhancing prose flow while imitating the thought process of the protagonist—a grieving mother. Jamison’s sentences employ the repetition phrase “difficult woman,” and “New York,” conveying the writer’s agitation during an airport interaction. She ends with a short sentence, bringing the paragraph to a full stop.
As prose writers, we love what sentences can do!
Here’s a book I love —First You Write a Sentence by Joe Moran. You’ll learn more about writing than you ever learned from grumpy Mr. Wilkins in 11th grade English. A must read for all nonfiction writers is William Zinsser’s classic On Writing Well.
Practice sound, rhythm, and repetition! Choose a segment from a piece you are working on. Read the segment aloud or have someone read to you. Identify places where the sentence seems to drag. Choose words you might replace. Make a list! Then, revise your excerpt to create words that work well together, with similar sounds or rhythm. Vary sentence lengths. When you’ve revised your excerpt, read it aloud to hear the difference. We’d love to know what you learned from this exercise at our April 11 meeting!
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Our monthly meeting is Tuesday, April 11 beginning 6:30 PM by Zoom only. The Zoom meeting link was sent in the April newsletter, or you may contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a link. Contact us at the same email address if you have trouble signing on.
We’ll ask you to share news of your writing and reading lives. Janet will be our Zoom host. After our casual conversation, we’ll peer critique works-in-progress. We use a strength-based approach, offering specific helpful revision suggestions. We provide developmental critiques, not grammar or spelling suggestions!
Persons interested in sharing for critique, send a Word document of four-double spaced pages or one poem to email@example.com by noon on April 11, so we can screenshare.
Spring into Summer is the title of our next writing retreat, June 3, 2023, from 9 AM to 5 PM at the beautiful Valaterra retreat center, in LaGrange, KY. This is a wonderful opportunity to refresh, renew, reboot your writing life, and grow your relationships with fellow scribes. Cost will be $50 for members/ $75 for nonmembers. WWW will provide beverages and snacks. A box lunch is an optional extra ($10).
You may register for the retreat on the website. If you wish to reserve your space with a check, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send you the address (include Ashley’s name in your subject line).
If cost is prohibitive, please let Megan know at email@example.com (include Megan’s name in the subject line).
Meanwhile, we are planning an overnight retreat in the fall. If you have some suggestions about an affordable place you’d like to retreat, let us know! The Kentucky Foundation for Women has announced it will no longer use Hopscotch House for retreats. We are so grateful to KFW for the countless number of retreats we’ve been able to host there. We have our memories and a few photos!
Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on UnSplash
THE WRITING PROMPT
“Sometimes you search for a story. Sometimes you sniff for a story. Sometimes you listen for a story. And sometimes the story walks up to you and tells you itself.”
This month, our writing prompt is provided by author, Erin Keane, who joined WWW and friends for a reading and conversation, at our March 14 monthly meeting, with our own Janet L. Body (aka, Terry Gross). Erin read from and discussed her experience writing her hybrid memoir, Runaway—named a best book of 2022 by NPR.
Here’s what Janet says about her experience with the author—
“Erin was a perfect author interviewee. Not only did she write a compelling and complex story, she was conversational, engaged in the process, willing to look at her work from different perspectives, and able to answer questions she might not have anticipated!” (the Star Trek mind meld, for example).
Here is the writing prompt Erin provided—
Every family is a culture, and every culture has a specific myth.
- Name a myth—spoken or unspoken—about your family or a family member. Summarize it in one or two sentences—the upshot only.
- Make two lists: What you know is true and what you don’t know.
- First draft: Write a braided essay that weaves back and forth between the things you know and the things you don’t know.
- Next step: Research what you don’t know and make another set of lists: What you have learned, and what remains unknown/unproven. Now weave these strands into the essay.
Photo by Mark McGregor on Unsplash
WE WANT TO SUPPORT YOUR WRITING LIFE!
Consider signing up for the Bluegrass Writers’ Conference on April 29, 2023 (Eastern Time) from 9 AM to 4 PM in Frankfort, Kentucky. Cost is $85. This is the second annual conference. Learn more and register here—
Links, newsletters, and books we love!
Janet likes learning from Marion Roach Smith, especially the QWERTY podcast where she interviews folks who’ve just published memoirs. She also enjoys Jane Friedman’s newsletter where she posts links to articles by other nonfiction writers and teachers.
Megan likes the Tiffany Yates Martin Foxprint Editorial newsletter and website. Martin also leads some great classes. Also recommended is the Gotham Writers monthly newsletter. They have regular contests for all genres. Gotham has a new online journal called Razor. They are affiliated with the Zoetrope journal.
Janet loves the book, The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human and How to Tell Them Better by Will Storr. He uses neuroscience to describe how the human brain constructs the world we experience as reality, and then he shows how to write in ways that fully engage our readers’ story-loving brains.
All members are invited to submit to the Women Who Write web blog! We accept personal essays, poetry, fiction, memoir. No more than 2,000 words please! We’ll read your work in advance and offer revision suggestions if needed. Publishing on our blog will expand your writing platform since you can share the blog link on social networks. And you’ll help WWW show off the variety of talents within our writing community! Browse our web blog now! http://womenwhowrite.com/our-blog/. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your story, poem, or essay—the one you’ve written or the one you want to write!
Poets and Writers has an extensive list of literary magazines to which you can submit. Learn more here.
Gionsko Literary Journal. Gionsko means, “to perceive, understand, realize, come to know; knowledge that has an inception, a progress, an attainment. The recognition of truth from experience.” Accepting short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, social justice, literary insights. Learn more here.
Sky Island Journal is online journal that publishes emerging and established writers. Prefers flash fiction and creative nonfiction (less than 1,000 words) and poetry. Rolling submissions. Inquire here.
About Place Journal “addresses the causes of spirit, earth, and society; to protect the earth; and to build a more just and interconnected world.” Their next issue is about rivers. Currently accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art about rivers! Deadline April 15. Learn more here.
Halfway Down the Stairs publishes quarterly themed issues of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and book reviews. The June 2023 issue will be themed Resistance. Deadline for submissions is May 1, 2023. Learn more here
Consider writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul. Some upcoming themes— The Power of Positive Thinking, Angels, Dogs, Cats, and Make Me Laugh! Learn more here
Consider submitting to this online magazine of personal essays—Dorothy Parker’s Ashes has as its tag line, “Brazen words by witty dames. Everything true. More or less.” The next theme is Endings (deadline April 15). https://www.dorothyparkersashes.com/the-writing-life
Consider submitting to this new literary magazine, Third Street Review, accepting all prose, poetry, and visual art. They like experimental, flash, and innovative forms but will publish more traditional pieces as well. https://www.thirdstreetwriters.org/
Mulberry Literary believes in “the power of sharing, regardless of genre or style. We are a literary magazine without a niche, without a theme, just a simple goal to showcase your work.” Accepting submissions from March 1 to May 1, 2023.
Thimble Literary is “based on the belief that poetry is like armor. Like a thimble, it may be small and seem insignificant, but it will protect us when we are most vulnerable.” The online journal publishes quarterly. Find out more here!
Maudlin House publishes fiction, short fiction, and poetry, as well as columns and book reviews. The online literary mag describes itself as “a bridge between new form fiction and experimental lit that takes on mainstream pop culture through the lens of 21st-century indie art” https://maudlinhouse.net/about/
The Fictional Café is a unique literary venue inviting fiction and poetry. This international platform does require membership (looks like it’s free) to submit. They describe themselves as a Coffee Club, and their editors and staff as baristas. Here is their invitation— “Want to submit a short story or poetry? A chapter from a novel-in-progress?”
HerStry literary essay/memoir blog seeks to empower women through their writing. They offer $20 for published work—both general and themed. The next theme is Endings (due April 1).
The Persimmon Tree’s mission is to “bring the creativity and talent of women over sixty to a wide audience of readers of all ages.” They are “looking for work that reveals rich experience and a variety of perspectives.”
The Blue Mountain Review publishes poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, on a rolling basis, for publication in this quarterly print journal. “Blue Mountain Review is a Southern publication, but it draws no boundaries or borders on that interpretation. It seeks pieces that boldly create something new.”
Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers publishes prose that “treats motherhood as a subject worthy of literature.” This online journal is now part of Creative Nonfiction journal. Find out how to submit here.
The Keeping Room is an online magazine for women writers, poets, and artists, interested in “Women’s Wisdom, Lessons Learned, Self-care, Bodies, Relationships, and Community.” Find out how to submit here.
The Quartet Journal features poetry by women fifty and over. Find out how to submit here.
SUPPORT OUR WRITING COMMUNITY!
Become a member (or re-member)—As a community, WWW strives to nurture your writing life. We hope you choose to join or renew as a member and participate in our monthly meetings, author talks, retreats, and workshops. Our membership chair will notify persons when they are due to renew. Regular annual membership is $50. Student annual membership is $25. Membership entitles you to discounts on workshops and retreats.
Attend our monthly member meetings on the second Tuesday of each month for a brief program, peer critiques and conversations about the writing life. Not currently a member? You can attend two meetings before deciding to join. We prefer you attend in-person, though we offer a Zoom option primarily for our out-of-town membership.
Visit our web page WomenWhoWrite.com. Also, visit our Facebook Page and stay awhile—@womenwhowriteky. Don’t forget to like us and follow us. Answer polls. See video interviews of WWW meetings with visiting writers.
Participate! Members, please send us links to your published writing. We will include these links on our Facebook page!
Members, please email email@example.com with your comments, requests, or suggestions.
We wish you a joyful writing life.
Be safe. Be strong. Be peace.
Love your writing life!
The Leadership Team
Kim, Megan, Alisa, Janet, Irene, Ashley, and Katie