POEM: Windows

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“Windows”

In the neverending heat of a South Florida childhood with no other season except Hurricane, I dreamt of snow, of patting down snowballs into hard spheres to throw at my compatriots from behind white walls guarded by coal-eyed snowmen sniffing out trouble with carrot noses. Snow angels hovered in my dreams, bright shapes made real by throwing myself into clouds of frozen heaven dust upon waking to a Florida morning that never came.

Now, my dreams come true on this Ohio dawn, with the first snow drifting outside my bedroom window frosting trees like cupcakes, the ground ever more white, as though Thor dusted dandruff from his beard to coat the world. The flakes fall heavier, thick pale globes, hiding the grass, the trees, the warm gifts my dogs leave on the lawn like offerings to winter gods. In the snow, everything becomes new and beautiful.

Inside my house, my heater hums comfort. I snuggle under warm quilts.

I wonder if those without windows share my joy.

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com.

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BOOK REVIEW: Little Epiphanies by Allison Joseph

Allison Joseph’s poetry collection, Little Epiphanies, is a lovely book.

Her tightly structured and orderly poems eloquently comment on everything from everyday clutter (“Little Epiphanies”) to our fellow mammals (“Ode to the Naked Mole Rat”). Yet she also skillfully uses iambic pentameter to poke fun at strict poetry format in “Sonnet for a Good Mood:”

“How funky can I be in fourteen lines;
how thick a groove can I lay down right here?
How bad can my ass be in these confines–
ten syllables each time seems so severe.”

On the next page, in “A Prayer for Women’s Bodies,” she smoothly transitions to more serious matters, honoring the imperfections that society would have us camouflage or hide:

“…love handles no longer

maligned, each waist its own territory,
own beloved landscape of bruise
or bone, wrinkle or fat. Let us honor
bone, whether porous or pointy,

shattered or submerged, hardworking
scaffolding holding us up when gravity
and graves could sink us down,…”

In fact, what amazes me most about this collection is that the subject matter is so varied while still fitting together well. She makes observations about racism in “Sundown Ghazal”, about Afro hairstyles as statements of black empowerment in “Thirty Lines about the Fro,” and her wandering pen touches on more mundane subjects like public transportation with equal parts observation and insight.

I recommend Little Epiphanies for poetry lovers everywhere.

 

POEM: Mindfulness

“Mindfulness”

the swish of my skirt’s soft fabric
against my ankles
black translucent cloth flowing behind
threads catch upon the rough concrete
as my uneven gait
from old worn sandals
clips and slides along the sidewalk

a cool breeze
softly strokes my hair
like a lover’s caress

my dark reflection
moves aside as the door swings slowly
open, then closes

Does that other me follow me inside with her dark gaze?

 

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Saturday, November 10th, the Massillon Library’s Local Author Fair will feature several Ohio authors between 11am and 2pm. I will be reading from my work about 11:30. Please stop by and find out about the writers in your community. I hope to see you there!

*image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.Net via Creative Commons License.

 

ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part II

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My last post concerned the Cuyahoga Library’s Indie Author Con and Showcase on October 13th, but there was way too much information to convey in a single post. So here, as promised, is Part II of my post about the con. Enjoy!

Legal Issues for Self-Published Writers

This segment of the con featured Jacqueline Lipton, founder of Authography: a company dedicated to sustaining authors with legal and other issues. She also teaches writing courses online, writes the Legally Bookish column for the SCBWI bulletin, has received awards for her fiction novels, and holds multiple degrees. Her upcoming book, Law & Authors, will be published in 2019.

“Write what you need to write, and worry about the legal stuff down the track.”

I know many authors worry about the legal ramifications of what they write, because they are afraid of accidentally committing a legal blunder, so this simple piece of advice felt very reassuring. It’s not necessarily that you won’t make mistakes, but that you mustn’t let the fear stop you from creating. If you are worried, you can seek legal advice by having a lawyer look over your work or by using some other legal resource, but the important thing is to not let fear stop you. Fear is the enemy of creativity.

In the interest of passing on some of what Ms. Lipton shared at the conference, I am sharing the photos I took of her slides (with her permission), as well as notes I took of the Question & Answer session afterwards.

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Q&A:

What are the issues using quotations?

–Ms. Lipton explained that much of what you may want to use may be considered Fair Use, but because Fair Use is so uncertain, traditional publishers will want legal permission. This is a site you may consult for more information. authorsalliance.org

What about issues concerning more than one person using the same Pen name? Is it a copyright or trademark issue?

–If you or someone else uses the same pen name, you do not need to do anything. Others may have the same name, but it does not tell you anything about the underlying work. If someone is using your pen name, because they are copying your work, it’s a copyright issue anyway.

What is the definition of a Trademark (in greater detail)?

–Trademark concerns work a particular market (narrowly identified). Ex: The For Dummies series, etc.
Problems occur when you look closely affiliated with the other market. The main question asked concerning Trademark is, How likely would consumers be to mistake one product from the Trademarked product? Ex: orange arches compared to McDonald’s yellow arches for hamburger restaurants.

That completes my summary of last month’s writers’ conference. If you have any particular legal questions, I suggest you consult a lawyer or other official legal resource, but I hope this summary proves useful in a general sense.

I will post again next week, but I also wanted to tell you of an upcoming event. I am very honored to have been invited to participate once again in the Massillon Library Local Author Fair. The Fair takes place on Saturday, November 10th from 11am – 2pm, and features many talented local authors! I will be reading from my work, as well as have a table with some materials from Literary Cleveland to give out. If you are able, please stop by, listen to some cool authors, visit their tables, and maybe pick up a book!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

***permission to summarize this session for the blog kindly granted by Jacqueline Lipton.
**permission to use photos of her slides generously granted by Jacqueline Lipton. The photos themselves were taken by myself.

ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part I

Two weeks ago, on the 13th of October, Cuyahoga Library‘s Parma-Snow branch hosted a free Indie Author Con and Showcase. Cuyahoga Library is a pillar of Northeast Ohio’s literary community, with multiple programs and facilities supporting writers and bibliophiles of all stripes. However, I realize not everyone is lucky enough to live within driving distance of this fantastic library system, so I want to share some of the information I took away from its most recent conference. Since there is a lot to convey, I split the information between two posts.

Truly, one of the things I love best about cons is meeting new people with the same interests as myself, as well as reconnecting with others I have not seen for some time. It’s invigorating to be surrounded by creative people, and I always leave more inspired than when I arrived. When the conference started, the first panel of guests were representatives of different local writing organizations. I will link to them below, along with short descriptions.

Find Your Writing Tribe

Sisters in Crime

–This group meets monthly at the Twinsburg Library, primarily for female writers of crime stories, both fiction and non–although male writers are also welcome. They periodically organize field trips for members. In the past, they have visited the Medical Examiner’s Office as well as the Natural History Museum. At meetings they may have guest visitors, such as a poison expert giving a talk or a visit from a cadaver dog. In November, a judge will speak to them about criminal procedure and trials.

Literary Cleveland

–This writers’ organization hosts multiple events, both free and low cost, at various locations throughout the Cleveland area. They have published a chapbook of Cleveland stories, and will take part in the Cleveland Humanities event; they also host members-only mixers, and offer monthly poetry workshops and general writing classes. They also organize a free writers’ conference called INKubator annually at the Cleveland Main Library. Membership is $50 annually.

Skyline Writers

–A writing group that meets monthly at the Parma branch library for kind and helpful feedback. Interested parties can go to one meeting without submitting, then after they may sub a 3,500 word manuscript for critique by the group.

Literary Akron

–Literary Akron is relatively new organization dedicated to promoting writing and appreciation for literary arts in the greater Akron area. They have been working behind the scenes to bolster a number of smaller efforts around town and are planning a formal launch of the organization in early 2019.**

In the meantime, they may be contacted via email at Literary.Akron@gmail.com

Northern Ohio Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

–This local group aims to support authors and illustrators of children’s books, focusing on community and craft.
Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America

–This organization requires membership in Romance Writers of America, although interested parties may attend two meetings for free. They meet one Saturday a month year-round (except in July) from 10am – 1pm. Other benefits include online workshops (membership not necessary), a Spring writing contest, and an annual members-only retreat in November.

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Hybrid Authors: Best of Both Worlds
(Mary) Kathleen Glavich & Abby L. Vandiver

This second panel of guests featured two prolific authors kind enough to discuss their personal journeys via combined traditional and self-publishing. While a traditional publisher has more control over content since they are investing financially in the work, self-publishing authors exclusively control their content while assuming any financial risks.

Mary Kathleen Glavich has written over eighty religious books since 1972. While she’s published traditionally–and still does, on one occasion a publisher broke their contract with her; she decided to publish the book herself. She enjoyed the complete editorial control she had over content and cover choices, and has since self-published some of her previously out-of-print books as well.
Abby L. Vandiver has published twenty books in the five years since she began her writing career. She began self-publishing as a way to generate revenue and get her work known, before transitioning to the traditional publishing model. In 2017, she made the Wall Street Journal’s Best Seller List, which attracted both a traditional publisher as well as an agent.

Her first book, however, was a manuscript she had written years earlier, that her daughter found in the garage. When Ms. Vandiver decided to publish, she did not want to go through the process of traditional publishing, including the waiting period for a manuscript to become a published book. She also did not want to spend money for a vanity press. She discovered she could publish her book, without cost to herself, through Amazon.*** The first two months, she had no sales, so she analyzed the best seller list and made some adjustments. Then she sold five books–still without cost to herself. She invested $25 (EREADER NEWS TODAY, now priced higher)for a promotional package, which resulted in selling 525 books!

Every book after that became a best seller in her category, through independent promotions and FaceBook.

Although she started as a self-published author, she was approached by an agent for her second book, and now has traditionally published books as well. She spoke at length about the Amazon publishing model she used, as well as the difference between traditional versus self-publishing.

At this time, Amazon takes about 70% of royalties for discounted books (.99 cent model). However, if the book costs more (not discounted), the model is reversed. Amazon also pays for each page read on borrowed books and lets you sell at your own price, although it does not allow you to publish in other formats. She suggested the discount .99 cent model as a great way for self-publishing authors to market their books, by getting their name out there and read; the discount model can be profitable.

During the Question and Answer session, both authors agreed on the necessity of establishing an author platform through social media and a website. Mary Kathleen Glavich also suggested using other local promotional media such as tv, radio, and newspapers. Abby L. Vandiver suggested promotional FaceBook parties with other authors, Twitter groups, and creating virtual box sets with other writers–utilizing their combined marketing resources. She also advised asking other indie authors for suggestions, as they are generous and love to share their expertise.

Part II of this post involves legal issues for self-published writers and will (hopefully) be up next week. I hope you found this helpful, and–if you don’t already do this–support your local libraries!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

**Description courtesy of Scott Piepho

***I do not know if this Amazon publishing model is still current. I would suggest further investigation if you are interested.

POEM: Elegy for the Circus

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“ELEGY FOR THE CIRCUS”

 

No more clowns, corpse-white skin,

blackened eyes, and red leaking lips,

to frighten infants with ludicrous stunts

and thickly painted cracked faces

 

No more weeping elephants, tears cutting lines in rough skin

No more grey-skinned babes separated from mourning mothers

 

No more tigers pacing cages too small for predators meant to run,

to race, to track down prey, to rip flesh between their teeth

 

No more lions teased with the heads of their masters

thrust into hungry mouths, teased with the illusion

of freedom and a hot meal with a beating heart

 

No more X-square feet per animal, less than zoo standards,

less than any wild beast was meant to live in, to pace in, to die in,

 

No more creatures forced to perform

before children dripping ice cream and disinterest

 

 

 

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For those of you fortunate enough to live in Northeast Ohio, there are two writing events tomorrow (October 13th) in the Cleveland area.

Literary Cleveland’s October Poetry workshop takes place from 10:30-12:30 at the Cleveland Main Library, led by poet Kisha Nicole Foster.

Indie Author Conference and Showcase takes place from 10am- 4pm at the Cuyahoga County Library’s Parma-Snow branch.

Both events are free, which is INCREDIBLE. I’ve attended both events at different times in the past and readily vouch for how inspiring and helpful both are. Unfortunately, they overlap, so you will need to choose which event you want to attend this year.

If you can take advantage of these events, please do so. They are well worth the drive!

 

*It should come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of circuses, and so this prompt from last year’s National Poetry Writing Month really inspired me.

**image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net via Creative Commons License

BOOK REVIEW: Hard to Swallow by Pat & Bill Hurley

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Hard to Swallow by Pat & Bill Hurley is a beautiful collection of poetry.

The couple were married just weeks before Bill was diagnosed with cancer. The poems are arranged as a conversation between the husband and wife, with his poems in italics while hers are not. As he did not want to read any poems with angst, some of her poems were never seen by her husband; instead, they appear here as complimentary thoughts on their marriage and the experiences they shared in their short time together. She expresses her worry about his health, her admiration for his courage, and her despair of living without him. Some of her admissions are startling as well as moving.

From “Jealous”

OK, I’ll admit it.

I’m jealous of the cancer.

Ever since she moved in,

She’s had you breathless

He writes of his changing body and how he centers himself through meditation and the contemplation of labyrinths. He also writes of his love for her.

From “March 24, 2016”

…Perhaps angels are the nearest things to our souls, and

as such, are our closest companions to that which is divine.

Although it’s heartbreaking they only had a short time together, this book is a beautiful testament to living life to the fullest and appreciating every moment.