Taking on the Challenge

Write NowI just completed the Writer’s Digest 30-day Poem-a-Day challenge. I posted a poem every day – based on a prompt provided by Robert Lee Brewer – and loved every minute of it. This isn’t the first year I’ve done this challenge, but sometimes I’m playing catch up from the get-go or rushing madly to get all the poems done by April 30. I found doing them day by day so much better and way more satisfying.

So, why can’t I write poems every day the rest of the year? Why do I need a prompt kick in the pants to sit down and compose poetry? It’s not a lack of inspiration. I often convert my spiritual practice of writing devotionals into poetry based on Bible verses. Life generally is full of poetic fodder. With that in mind, I plan to continue the exercise of writing a poem a day until April 30, 2022.

Let it be said, my hand hovered over the delete button as soon as I typed that last sentence, but I stopped myself.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve neglected my writing in recent months. The poem-a-day challenge ignited the flickering embers of banked creativity into a flame. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, but it’s for external projects; not the kind of writing that feeds the author within.

In the comments, let me know what you think of the poetry posted below, three among the thirty I wrote in April, AND if you have a prompt you would like to see a poem about, leave it in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Just a reminder, the Las Vegas Literary Salon is publishing a book of short fiction, essays, and poetry. Read more about it here. And now for some Vander Meer poetry.

The Day 4 prompt was to write an active poem. How do you think I did?

POETRY ACTIVE
Why is my brain
a runaway train?
I write my thought,
will it come to naught?

I dither and stir,
mind in a whir.
Words flow out,
like a garish shout!
I want to sleep,
but will they keep?
These words, I pray,
will be good, another day.

The Day 7 prompt was to write a villain poem. I rather enjoyed writing this one, and if you don’t know who Natalie Goldberg is, you might want to check her out. She is a writing guru!

VILLAINS
The thieves of creativity
chew me up and spit me out.
Self-created villains,
gremlins of doubt, fear, anxiety,
chip away at my confidence,
and then, I Natalie Goldberg them,
and write anyway, as though someday,
someone will read my words
and smile… or not.

Day 11 had to be a prime number poem, which of course, begged the question, what the hell is a prime number? Math is NOT my strong suit. As it turns out, 3 is a prime number. So here’s my Haiku in tribute to the prompt.

THREE LINES
Two wings and a beak
tiny talons grip a fence
merry spring arrives.

If you’re a writer, happy writing. I hope this post is an inspiration. If you’re a reader, THANK YOU! Please follow this website, like this post, comment, and if you’re moved to do so, share.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. Click the BOOKS tab to find out more about my work and to order my books. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I may be reached by email at fsvandermeer@gmail.com.

 

Day by day

Golden Lily

The doing of a thing
shapes who we become
making each life ring and sing.

Do a thing today
that makes you smile
or helps another along life’s way.

Make your story chime
rich and vibrant,
splashed with colors sublime.

Sometimes the thing
is a softly spoken word
like the gentle brush of an angel’s wing.

Sometimes it is creating
art, or music, or a tale
so beautiful it’s breath-taking.

Sometimes it’s praying,
knowing God is listening
to what you are saying.

The things we do and say
define our stories
and shape our lives day-by-day.


And now for the next adventure

Yes or No

I’m in that battling through ideas stage, wondering what thread of excitement engages me enough to begin story development. It sounds easier than it is. Some ideas will be best expressed as poetry, others as a short story and others in a novel.

How does one get past the muddled mess and move forward? Here are five questions to help you determine how you want your inner storyteller to tell the tale.

Is this a story with interwoven plots and subplots?

  • Complex stories can be told in any form, including poetry. Think of The Iliad by Homer, a marathon Greek poem about the Trojan war, or Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou, a story about freedom. Could these tales have been told in a different way? Probably, but not as poignantly. That said, if you have a story that’s deep and wide, consider writing a novel, or at the very least, a novella. You have more time and space for compelling characters and intriguing plots.

Is this story a shovel or a knife?

  • A shovel digs deep and uncovers what is hidden; a knife is more precise and goes to the central theme without a lot of lead in. Deep is best handled in a novel; precision in a short story or poem. O. Henry was the master of short form writing with satisfying – often unexpected – endings. Remember The Gift of the Magi?

What audience is the story geared toward?

  • I don’t like to bring it up, but yes, you do need an audience for your work, no matter what you write. Children’s books are written in a certain way for very good reasons. Consider carefully the profile of your reader and forge ahead accordingly. One of my favorite authors is David Baldacci.  This is a writer who knows his audience and creates powerful characters in compelling situations. His novels sell worldwide and have been translated into many languages.

How much do you love your idea?

  • Writing a story is a process. The seed is just that, a seed. For it to grow into something that will inform and entertain requires nurture (creativity), weeding (editing), and feeding (revising).

But – as writer and literary agent Lisa Cron would ask – how much do you know about your  character before you push him or her onto page one of your novel?

  • Cron, the author of “Wired for Story” encourages writers to understand their protagonists’ deeply and well before proceeding. This isn’t pre-writing; it’s exploring the lead characters backstory so, as the author, you know going in the “inside intel” that drives the character and mucks up his or her life as they make their way forward. It sounds easy, does it not? Well, it isn’t. It is probably the most difficult thing a writer must do. Is it worth the effort? Cron says, yes, citing authors in her acquaintance who – by way of this process – went from rejection to seven-figure book sales.

My stumbling block is focus. To write, one needs to set everything else aside an focus on the goal, and be willing to do the work.

Back to basics. Who is my story about? What does she want? What does she fear that will keep her from achieving that goal? How can she overcome her fear and succeed? Therein lies – THE STORY.

Wish me luck!


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central



 

Q&A With Elmo Baca: Indigogo!

Okay, this is just too exciting. I personally CAN NOT WAIT! This is directly from Elmo’s Facebook page and I am hoping I don’t miss getting one of the first 50 tickets to this stellar premier:

Announcing the sneak preview screening and opening of the Indigo Theater on December 17 with “Star Wars The Force Awakens.” The Indigo Theater officially opens on December 18 screening “Star Wars” with multiple shows through the day and through the holiday season. Advance tickets are now available through Indigo’s new crowdfunding campaign at Indigogo. Please visit http://igg.me/at/indigotheater. Please also see our Facebook page at Indigo Theater and website at www.indigotheater.rocks for more information and links to the Indigogo campaign. Advance tickets for “Star Wars – The Force Awakens” are currently only available through Indigogo. May the Force be with you!

In the following Q&A about the Indigo Theater Elmo talks about this project and his commitment to creating something unique that enhances the quality of life in Las Vegas.

Q. In one sentence tell readers who you are.

A. Elmo Baca is a native of Las Vegas, interested in community revitalization, art, writing, history, historic preservation, photography and cinema, not necessarily in that order.

Q. What is a boutique theater?
A. Boutique refers to a smaller, more intimate and perhaps more eccentric experience. In the cinema, boutique refers to a smaller theater that offers a more direct interaction with the picture and sound.

Elmo Baca and Bill Capaccio
Elmo and painter Bill Capaccio talk about finer points and finishing touches.

Q. Why Las Vegas and why now?
A. Obviously there is a business opportunity for a new cinema in Las Vegas, and having some theater management experience in my tool box, I decided to make an investment. But I also I feel that the timing is right, an optimistic feeling is in the community. Finally, I strongly advise other communities to revitalize their theaters, and so I felt compelled to apply that same advice to my hometown.

Q. What is the inspiration for Indigo?
A. I like the color Indigo, the word, the feeling and associations, the music, and the mood. The deep blue violet is a shade in the sky just before nightfall, which is sometimes the same time that a movie begins. Indigo has been celebrated by great artists like Matisse, Sinatra and Duke Ellington, and it seemed like a good name for a theater. The color also offered some interesting design opportunities.

Q. How does film and theater contribute to a community’s vitality?
A. If you look at cities throughout history, the theater is one of the building blocks of society. Even in the frontier west, every new boom town had a church, a saloon and an opry house. A theater is fundamental to a town’s vitality, imagination and social quality. In today’s lifestyle, with the dramatic improvements in digital film making, sound, photography and internet technologies, more and more people have become amateur filmmakers, posting their videos and photos to social media. In a sense, film making has become more democratic and universal. So having a theater that provides the opportunity for a town to stay current with advanced technologies and give local people a venue for self-expression is essential.

The Indigo's lobby
Cool lighting and comfy features will add ambiance to the lobby.

Q. What makes you hopeful about Las Vegas’ future?
A. I’ve seen Las Vegas gradually bounce back from generally deteriorating economic conditions and building infrastructure that were prevalent maybe 40 or 50 years ago. I have also seen some new residents who have a real passion for the community and willing to settle here and make contributions to the community. I think there’s some new leadership in the community and it gives me confidence to start the Indigo Theater. But we must also be aware that Las Vegas and northeastern New Mexico are losing population, and so we can’t be complacent.

Q. Talk about Las Vegas and historic preservation
A. I grew up in Las Vegas, which is a magical environment with its remarkable buildings and public spaces. But I didn’t always appreciate it. I sometimes joke that I ran away from home and went to college. Later of course, as one matures and experiences other places, the special qualities of Las Vegas come into clarity and focus. I learned guerrilla and grassroots historic preservation in Las Vegas, sometimes having to do projects or change perceptions with little or no money. Changing attitudes about rundown old buildings and a depressed economy is not easy. But I met and have worked with some special people here in Las Vegas along the way. I think one important lesson I have learned is that it is important to take the long view in this work. Cities take time and one must be patient. There is no silver bullet, just hard work, determination and some imagination. Sometimes miracles happen, and a catalytic project gets done or a new leader or entrepreneur moves to town. I have seen it happen several times in Las Vegas. When this happens, there is a window of opportunity when change can happen. Sometimes these moments last for a few years and sometimes they are gone, and sometimes the community doesn’t act in time, the moment is lost. I feel that the current time is a moment of opportunity and positive change.

Q. What are you hearing about the Indigo?
A. Well the community has been very positive and encouraging me. I think there’s some curiosity about the project itself, the building of a new cinema in an old building. I’ve heard that people will be glad they won’t have to drive to Santa Fe for a movie all the time. But I think the basic excitement is partly to have a current movie in town, to feel modern, contemporary, and connected to the movies and stories that the world is discussing and enjoying.

The Indigo Theater is scheduled to open on December 17 with the new Star Wars The Force Awakens movie. (See above.)

For more information on the Indigo Theater, please see the theater’s Facebook page and website: facebook/IndigoLas VegasNM and www.indigotheater.rocks.

Why NaNoWriMo?

Version 2

I’ve been writing since I was able to hold a pencil. My brain sizzles with ideas and bubbles with story lines. And then I sit down at the computer. It’s like turning off a faucet. The pencil was so much more productive, a direct connect to my brain. This lapse in creativity at the computer isn’t permanent, and the ideas will begin to flow again, but will the flow end up in one bucket or flood all over  the place? I think at this point I don’t care, I’m just happy with the flow wherever it goes. For me writing is fun. At one time it was important that I be paid, and that’s nice when it happens, but the reason I write has little to do with a burgeoning bank account, which is fortunate. I’ve never made much with this gift God have me, but I continue to be enriched by it in other ways.

What does this have to do with NaNoWriMo? November is National Novel Writing Month. The website sets the stage for writing a novel in 30 days, yes, 30 days. I’ve made a smattering of attempts to do this over the years, with little success. I was easily distracted or felt intimidated by sitting down in front of the computer and knocking out 1500 to 2000 words a day to reach the 50,000 word goal. The expectation is that at the end of the month you will have the bones of a good story, which you can turn into a finished novel.

This year I am all in. I’ve already written more than 30,000 words and expect to finish ahead of schedule. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll be working on it until the last day. Regardless, I will complete the challenge, and then complete the book.

So, why NaNoWriMo? This isn’t something that happens in November and then goes away. Like a cyber muse it enters your life throughout the year reminding you to let go of your inner editor and just write. It has programs for young writers. It provides stimulus when everything else seems destined to divert you from the discipline of sitting your butt in the chair and just getting with it.

I’m half-way through the challenge, but I’m going to give a little advice on why it’s important to sign up and participate. It’s more than what you do right now, it’s how you embrace the concept and apply its strategies day after day.

Why NaNoWriMo?

  • NaNoWriMo flat out tells you to write. Period. Don’t self-edit, don’t second think, don’t curb the creative flow. Write.
  • Set goals. If you say, “I’m going to write today,” with no goal in mind, it’s easy to get distracted by just about anything you can think of, including, “I just don’t feel like writing.” Make yourself do it or you will never get anywhere.
  • During November you will get pep talks and support. It does help, believe me. There is other inspiring encouragement throughout the year.
  • The forum offers all kind of help, some you didn’t even know you needed. World building, character building, writing helps and more.
  • It is a free site. Really, absolutely free. A wealth of help and inspiration for free. I can tell you that maintaining NaNoWriMo isn’t free to the people who are doing it. Buy their stuff and donate. Help keep this fabulous thing going.

NaNoWriMo has gotten me off my procrastination pedestal and it can help you too. Sign up, even at this late date. It’s possible you can get well into your next writing project and have the satisfaction of supporting an awesome writing site.

A disclaimer here, other than participating in NaNoWriMo, I have no connection with the site builders and promoters. I just like it and want to let fellow writers know it’s there, available, and a great help.

Q&A With S.L. Shelton: Influence by Creativity

S.L. Shelton, AuthorQ. In one sentence, who is S.L. Shelton as a writer?
A. S.L. Shelton is a soldier, wrapped in a tech, inside a writer; there is no fiction, only exaggerations.

Q. You are a prolific writer and active blogger. How do you schedule time for both?
A. It’s difficult when both need to be done. But for the most part I only blog between writing on the novels. Blogging is a good way to network and to satisfy my need to write when I‘m not pounding out a first draft or crawling through the carnage of a developmental rewrite.

Q. At what point did you think, “Enough of being a techie I think I’ll go for a more risky way to earn a living and become a writer?”
A. I sold my tech company a few years ago. My intent was to farm and build heirloom furniture going into my early retirement. But an unfortunate incident with a Frisbee and weak ankles left me sitting in the house for an extended period of time. I have always been a writer, but the freedom of unlimited time and enslavement to a damaged foot conspired to give me this opportunity. I’m grateful for it every day.

Q. In what ways has writing satisfied or fulfilled you as a person?
A. Well if it weren’t for writing, all these voices in my head might start getting violent… I’d rather not have to deal with that in the pharmaceutical realm. Honestly though, creativity and influence go hand in hand. It’s an odd combination to simultaneously be introverted enough to create universes in your mind, but want to move the minds of the masses. There are few other mediums that do that as well as writing and it satisfies both those desires very well if one is attentive and reflective at the same time.

Q. You’ve had a variety of experience. How has that shaped the development of the protagonist in your novels?Waking Wolfe
A. I have done a lot of different things in my life and my bio only touches on a few of them. I owe that to my short attention span. Having such varied experiences allows me to tap into firsthand knowledge in a lot of areas of expertise. I keep those traits separated into various characters throughout all my stories, but I imbue Scott Wolfe with many of the imperfections that sort of scattered existence brings about.

Q. In your bio you say you are at odds with a need to kick the legs out from under those who abuse their power (political, economic or super). Talk about what that means in the context of story structure.
A. Wanting to change the world…ah. Wouldn’t that be nice. Fiction readers wish to be entertained first and foremost. That creates a dilemma for the fiction author; no one wants to be preached at, especially when trying to enjoy a story. I lean towards placing my message in a broad context, encompassing the story as a whole and then use it as the framework for the fiction. That way, you never have to go back and apologize for being too political, judgmental or coercive (except for food—people definitely need to eat better. JK)

Q. How does your protagonist in the Scott Wolfe series mirror your own life?
A. The series doesn’t really mirror my life except in eclectic bits and pieces. I spent a lot of time in the military and a lot of time in the tech industry, so certain funny or impactful anecdotes will migrate into the pages from my life, but for the most part, the Scott Wolfe Universe is all about me writing a story I’d like to read (or see as a movie).

Q. In what ways have you been changed by writing about this character, or have you?
A. I’m more aware of my own duality now than I was—or perhaps, going into such depth with my characters has made that duality more pronounced. We all have at least two faces; who we are to ourselves, and who we are to the world. Having an awareness of that helps bring a character to life but it sharpens your understanding of it in yourself.

Q. What do you wish people knew about you as a writer?
A. We read the reviews. Every author does, even the big ones like Brown, King, etc. We read them and take them to heart, even when we shouldn’t. Each one feels like a personal message written to us as an individual but posted for the world to see—and we crave them. Reviews are a sort of fuel to continue writing. The only thing better on the reader side is when someone posts a message to their friends, tagging us as someone worth reading. When that happens, I feel ten feet tall.

Q. The book cover for this series contains a repeat image overlaid or filled with different images and backed with different background color. Talk about how that developed and the ways you were involved in the design.
A. The early covers were just compilation photos. Constructs using pieces of my own photography and bits & pieces of other items. I’ve always pushed to improve the look of the covers, and enjoy doing the design.

Q. As an indie author, what do you think is most important to spend money on, editing or book design?
A. I design my own covers. I do it because I would rather spend my money on editors and proofing. As the series has become more successful, I’ve gone back and added additional rounds of proofing. The goal is to have a perfect product on release day, but when resources are limited and you can only afford two or three proofing passes, it’s nice to be able to go back later and update with more.

Q. Tell us what you are working on now and how people can connect with you online.
A. I’m in mid stroke of releasing Predator’s Game; the 6th novel in the Scott Wolfe Series. There’s only one left in the initial series. Aside from Scott Wolfe, I have six or seven other novels that I’ve been working on, but always set to the back burner when It’s time for a Scott story. As for connecting online. Twitter, Blog and Facebook are the best way to connect. I work hard connecting online and pride myself in being responsive to readers.

https://twitter.com/SLSheltonAuthor
https://www.facebook.com/SLShelton.Author/
https://wolfeauthor.wordpress.com/