Poetry News & Partnerships

I’m excited to share that my haiku “woman to woman” will be featured in Dear Sister Friend, the forthcoming anthology published by the She Will Speak Series!

She Will Speak is a fabulous organization (full disclosure: I’m helping with their social media) based in New Jersey that aims to empower women, especially women of color, through helping them find their voices, practice self-care, and honor the material and emotional work they’ve accomplished. I’m honored to work with and know Cheyenne, the founder of the series, and collaborate on this important work.

This is SWS’s second anthology, scheduled for release at the end of November. Their first was centered on lifting up voices of those who have experienced gender-based violence, and is currently available on Amazon.

My poem is a love song to female friendship, especially that with friends who may be physically far from you. I wrote it at a time when I felt closer with friends who were across towns, states, and time zones than with the people with whom I lived and saw every day.

The anthology will be released on November 27th, and I’m excited to see all the other amazing poetry, prose, and artwork that will be included. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy, and you can too for a small donation of $5. When you place your order, you’ll also receive a surprise handmade gift.

And wow, I sound like an infomercial. Call now!

Anyway, more importantly, when you order, whether it’s before or after the anthology’s official publication on the 27th (that’s right before Thanksgiving too, so it’s a great way to show your gratitude to the women in your life), proceeds will support GoLiveGirl . This organization empowers young girls across Connecticut to discover their own potential and become leaders.

So what are you waiting for? Make a difference and get some quality reading material!

How I Write: A Glimpse Into My Planning Process

I’m about 22,000 words into my second book! That’s, like, a quarter of the way done with the first draft. Because I started the book way before November 1, I didn’t want to make it an official NaNoWriMo project, but I think it’s turning into one. No matter how many words I have at the end of the month, I’m hoping to have a finished draft by the end of 2019, or thereabouts.

I have my own home office now, which is truly wonderful. It’s cold, especially in the mornings, but it’s a great spot to step away from the chaos of my life and focus on the chaos I’m creating in my characters’ lives.

As I’ve been writing, I’ve thought about the ways my approach to this book differs from the way I wrote my first (which took about a year from outline to first draft, and then many, many, many subsequent rounds of revision). My current WIP idea solidified much faster than the first one, and I credit that to all I’ve learned about story structure and character arcs in the past few years.

That happened this summer, when I had been fully prepared to work on a totally different book idea, but it never really took off. This story, with its #MeToo elements, the dark side of fame, and an opportunity to learn different cultural perspectives hasn’t let me go through the first quarter of the book, or about almost 100 pages.

Yes, I have 100 pages. And while I have so many ideas for scenes I want to write, before the Word document gets too unwieldy, I want to spend some time taking a step back and organizing all of the word vomit I have right now into a draft with a logical order.

This post’s headline may seem like a contradiction – doesn’t planning happen before writing? But I would say that I am engaged in both steps simultaneously. The orderly part of my brain likes the outline, and the creative, chaotic part likes following my characters down their rabbit holes.

When I was making my outline for this story, I kept it to the basic major plot points that I knew would be important, but I left the rest open to exploration. That leaves room for new experiments and ideas to take over as I’m writing and discovering what this world is really like.

When I’m drafting, I resist going in any logical order, which makes stopping at particular word count “checkpoints” a neat way to manage what I’ve already done. That way, I can weave these new developments back into the distilled version of the story in the outline.

I stole this trick from KM Weiland, who said that all writers must embrace both chaos and order.

Taking stock of the story in quarter-sized increments helps with taking a large-scale view in the query letter and synopsis–yes, I’m already working on these documents from hell for a book that isn’t even finished. Call me crazy, but it helps me figure out the tone, themes, and what I want readers to take away.

To summarize, I like nailing down specific points in the story, but leaving most of it open and flexible for experimentation. And I’m a massive overwriter, so I always have a lot to cut, depending on what fits with my overall vision for the story. It’s only by this trial-and-error process that I figure out where I really want to go. When I was writing my first book in a linear fashion from beginning to end, I would always burn out around 20,000 words, because I didn’t know the direction I wanted to take. Hopefully, we can avoid as many missteps this time around!

Should I make a “How I Write” series about my approach to each of the main phases of the writing process? Would you read it? Let me know!

Photo by Nick Morrison via Unsplash.

What We Learn About Relationships From Pop Culture

For the past couple of months, I’ve been writing for the One Love Foundation, which seeks to empower young people to recognize the signs of unhealthy dating relationships. I love contributing to their mission with each short post.

I’m super interested in the messages we (everyone, but especially teens) get from movies, TV shows, music, and books about what is acceptable and healthy in relationships, especially when they might just be first starting to date.

Next week, I’ll be presenting to my fellow One Love writers about this same topic, so I’m researching some of our favorite or most prominent fictional couples who may not be as romantic as we think. Think of Edward watching Bella as she sleeps. Noah dangling off the Ferris wheel until Allie agrees to go out with him. The Beast trapping Belle in the castle. Ariel giving up her voice for a man.

And I love “Paper Rings” as much as the next girl, but was anyone else creeped out by Taylor Swift’s lyric “now I wake up in the night and watch you breathe”?

So, after I reflected on these as well as the relationships in my own stories, I thought: if these depictions are so bad, why is our culture still celebrating them? Does recognizing that a given behavior is unhealthy automatically deem the show/movie/book containing it #canceled?

I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Right up there with the idea that everyone deserves to be loved and respected, I believe that we’re all imperfect, fallen people. In any relationship at any given time, someone has done something unhealthy. That’s just how life is. We all make mistakes, but the real measure of who we are is how we learn from them.

So on the one hand, although these shows contain characters (usually males, I might add) doing problematic things, they might also be an honest reflection of human nature. Guys, I’m not saying to go out and watch your girlfriend while she sleeps. That’s weird, and if you don’t live with her I would call the police.

I think there’s a crucial difference between the creators of a show or book or other piece of media having the characters do something and promoting that behavior. Just because two characters who might not be good for each other end up together or married, the creator could be trying to point out how this happens in real life when people feel pressured to stay in unhealthy relationships because they don’t want to be alone.

What’s crucial in my opinion isn’t the specific behavior the show portrays, but rather the conversation it can spark. Giving these negative behaviors a place in our media gives us a massive opportunity to talk about why they’re unhealthy.

And I don’t believe that filmmakers/writers/musicians have a place to come out and say “this is about X/so-and-so does this bad thing, but this is BAD”. Media isn’t the place for moralizing.

It’s on the audience to decide what’s romantic and what’s potentially abusive.

Photo by Philip Goldsberry via Unsplash.