Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On Rainbows and Inspiration to Get the Job Done

May 10, 2016
"I really love writing, but I am very easily distracted: my two cats fighting, a rainbow, a TV show...
I have to use every trick to keep myself at the computer." --K.A. Applegate, author of the 2013 Newbery Award-winning The One and Only Ivan

Awesome. That's all I can say: awesome. While we rarely see one rainbow, in this past month of May we saw two. (Well, technically three since the first was a double). Awesome is often an overused word, but the images took the breath away both times. Where's the camera?!
May29, 2016
Like Ms. Applegate in the above quote, I may be easily distracted when I'm supposed to be writing. I may not always focus where I should focus. But I believe I'll always be in awe of rainbows. Super inspirational in my opinion...

Speaking of inspiration, here are a few links to articles, along with tips, that can help us stay focused on our writing (and stay at that computer!). I know they've helped me get back on track since the recently fantastic--but intensive--April A-Z Challenge 2016:

From 7 Tips to Write More with Less Will Power, by Joe Bunting: Make a plan.

From Write That First Draft, Six Ways to Generate Material for Your Book, by Lisa Tener: Make a schedule--an appointment--with yourself (and keep it!).

Recovering the Joy in Writing, Barbara O'Neal: Rekindle the wonder (think rainbows here).

Barbara Kingsolver: How I Write, by Noah Charney: Stay eager.

Can you identify with Ms. Kingsolver when she says (from above article): "My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it's because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head...It's a funny thing: people often ask how I discipline myself to write. I can't begin to understand the question. For me, the discipline is turning off the computer and leaving my desk to do something else."

Or do you see yourself in this quote from Psychology Today's article, Procrastination: Ten Things to Know, by Hara Estroff Marano: "Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don't take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure."

Or, continuing from same article: "Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, 'I'll feel more like doing this tomorrow.' Or 'I work best under pressure.' But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure...Another big lie procrastinators indulge in is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources."

What's the better choice: distractions and procrastination, or finding ways to stay at the computer? I have one more example of inspiration: my friend, Peggy Harkins, author of children's and YA fantasy. Peggy and I met a number of years ago at an SCBWI regional conference. She emailed me last week to share in her rainbow: all of her hard work has paid off and she now officially has an agent! I'm celebrating with her--and hope you do, too. It's been a long road to this point but, along with finding her own set of tips to stay at the computer, she has another strength: perseverance. Congratulations, Peggy! (Peggy doesn't have a blog at this time, but we expect to hear more about her in the future :-)

What tips can you share in the fight against distractions? Do you struggle with procrastination on your writing journey?

Friday, May 13, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016, Reflections

A to Z Challenge 2016
I dragged my feet as is often the case with a new project. First there was some enthusiasm, a warming to the idea, a quickening that said, "why not give it a try?" But then the doubts crept in.

"I don't have anything to say." "What if I start and can't finish?" "Wow, what a commitment. When was the last time I produced that much writing in a month?"

"Tell me again, why am I doing this?"

Yet the day came when the pull to do grew stronger than the push to not. And so I signed up.

I'm talking about the A to Z Challenge 2016, 26 posts in April corresponding with the 26 letters of the alphabet. My subject of choice: haiku, posted from the viewpoint of a new student. My overall impression after the fact? It was a really good experience, well worth the time and effort.

The A to Z Team who sponsored the challenge has encouraged those of us who completed the challenge to write a reflections post about the experience. Many participants have already done so (see list of links here). So, a few of my thoughts:

Why did I sign up?
...to challenge myself, first of all, to write. No excuses.
...to see if I could actually make a deadline. No pressure there, ha!
...to apply myself to learning more about my subject, and to share what I was learning.
...to interact with others and learn from them on their subjects along the way.

What did I discover?
...time management is key. (Duh!)
...obstacles will present themselves--but so will surprises and unexpected words.
...there's a huge supportive community out there--both new friends and long-time close friends.
...more people signed up for this challenge than I could ever meet.

Jane Reichhold in her article Haiku Rules That Have Come and Gone, Take Your Pick shares a list of 65 "rules" for haiku, many of which are contradictory. While the article was in itself educational on the subject of haiku, it also presented what I think is a good take-away for the A-Z Challenge. "You've heard Robert Frost's saying that poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net and it is true also for haiku..." Ms. Reichhold writes. "As soon as you get proficient (you will notice your haiku all sound alike), it's time to raise the tennis net by picking a new rule or so..."

Well, it might be said that the A to Z Challenge 2016 was my tennis net. It raised the writing bar a little higher--and certainly made me work a little harder. Yet rewards abounded, including learning, stretching, celebrating small accomplishments, and 'shaking hands' with others along the way. And so, to round out the challenge, a final haiku reflection:

when words begin to 
sound the same take up challenge...
raise the net higher :-)
--Kenda Turner

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Haiku A to Z: Z is for Zoom In

photo google images
"...look out your window and describe what you see. Try to 'zoom in' on a small detail that contains the feeling of the larger scene." --How to Write a Haiku Poem: Haiku Examples and Tips

Zoom in. This pretty much sums up what haiku has come to mean to me as this Haiku A-Z Challenge comes to a close. Of course, in the language of haiku, the zooming technique is only one of many (as noted with Ms. Reichhold's article, quoted in my T is for Technique post) but for me the idea of zooming in has come to simply mean awareness. Awareness in the moment. Seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling. Experiencing. Connecting. Appreciating. Living.

Zoning in, not zoning out. With a little zest here, a little zip there.

Interestingly, we've come full circle in the challenge: A is for Ancient (day one)...Z is for Zoom In and A is for Awareness.

I've sure had fun on this project, and I've learned zillions of things. I give a shout out to all those who ventured by and especially to those who added to the conversation. I've learned from you, too.

So, before I go (with the intent to catch up on extra zzzzz's as a reward for making it all the way to the end), I share one more haiku, day twenty six:

a to z challenge...
mister bluebird, come on in
--Kenda Turner

Friday, April 29, 2016

Haiku A to Z: Y is for You

archive 2012
"Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!"--Dr. Seuss

Haiku is a lot of things: sensory, evocative, a moment, an image, a feeling, a mood. But at the end of the day it all really comes down to you. What resonates with you. What meaning is in it for you. What joy and/or fulfillment do you receive from it. What do you have to offer a reader.

You. Haiku will expand the world you live in. 

At the beginning of the A-Z Challenge, the day of the reveal, I wrote: "Haiku for me is a writer's prompt, a word-lover's playground, and an invitation to see things in a new light...I'm a student, still learning and experimenting, so the subject continues to take me on a path of discovery." After almost twenty-six days (one more to go!) I still feel this way. I also have found that haiku is a gift, helping to open my eyes and heart to more around me.

Hopefully it will do the same for you. Maybe you'll say yes and give it a try, too?

Still uncovering the gift with day twenty-five haiku:

yesterday's barn sighs
as bumblebee rides echoes...
flower seeds snatch dream
--Kenda Turner

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Haiku A to Z: X is for Xenia

photo courtesy pixabay
"Xenia (Greek: xenia, translated 'guest-friendship') is the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home and/or associates of the person bestowing guest-friendship. In Latin it means 'gifts.'" --wikipedia

Well, this might be a stretch (with a nod to those friends who questioned how I would handle the letter -x- in relation to haiku)  since there are no references I can find connecting my challenge theme to the concept of xenia, but I will go out on a limb and make that connection.* I suggest that we blend a bit of the Japanese tradition of writing haiku to the Greek concept of hospitality. Haiku can easily offer up a genial [(adj) smiling, friendly, cheerful, kindly], xenial [(adj.) having to do with hospitality] approach to the craft.

For example, haiku's xenia welcomes and invites the reader to an image, a moment, often a calmness, or even good conversation. Haiku, though not generous with words, is generous in spirit. Haiku opens a xenial door and promotes a feeling of wanting to return and is its own version of a personal gift. My vote is for xenial haiku!

On another note, there is a town just fifty miles up the road from where I live. It's name? Xenia. On April 3, 1974, an F-5 tornado tore through the heart of the town, killing 32 people and heavily damaging or destroying over 1200 homes. I remember the night vividly. Though not hit by a tornado ourselves, the night was frightening enough--black skies, high winds, torrential rains, hailstones the size of golf balls. I was in the house alone at the time and our baby was only two months old. Memories stirring, I offer day twenty-four haiku:

Xenia, Ohio...
maniac cloud silences
--Kenda Turner

*A few days after posting this, I did find a quote that makes a connection to haiku and hospitality! Speaking on the subject of objectivity in haiku, Michael Dylan Welch (here) writes, "Thus, it's helpful for us to draw back, to be aware of when 'we' (the self, the ego) intrude too much in our poetic descriptions. It's a sort of poetic graciousness (emphasis mine), where the poet is a good host for the reader's emotional reactions, enabling them to flower where they will."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Haiku A to Z: W is for Worthwhile

photo archive 2013
"As with any art, your first attempts may not be the most successful, but it's worthwhile to persist in learning and studying haiku, because few poetic forms manage to capture life's joys and pleasures (and also its sadnesses) as well as haiku." --nahaiwrimo, "Why 'No 5-7-5?'"

Worthwhile--a great word in describing haiku. Nancy Strauss at Creative Writing Now, says it this way: "A haiku uses just a few words to capture a moment and create a picture in the reader's mind. It is like a tiny window into a scene much larger than itself."

Oh, the -W-words: worthwhile...window... add the process itself, writing! Maybe sprinkle a bit of wisdom? Haiku can offer all of these and more.

For example, what about wit? After all, humor can also factor into the craft. Although wittiness is not one of my strengths in writing, I appreciate it when I see (or hear) it. Thus I can't resist sharing the following haiku I've found along the way:

"To convey one's mood
in seventeen syllables
is very diffic"--John Cooper Clarke

"The only problem
with Haiku is that you just 
get started and then"--Roger McGough

And what about this one, reportedly seen on a t-shirt:
Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense.

(typed with a chuckle!)

Wandering on in the world of haiku, I pause with day twenty-three haiku:

bubbles ricochet
on rush to falls...splash! weary
feet soak in the sound
--Kenda Turner

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Haiku A to Z: V is for Variation--and Venture

a favorite 2014
"There are many variations of haiku, but all haiku are small poems. Some forms count syllables, others don't. Some are written in variations of longer and shorter lines--others are simply limited by the overall number of syllables." --Haiku Journal

Does the idea of variation--so many varying styles and approaches--in haiku put up roadblocks to your attempts to write this type of poetry and cause you to veer away before even giving it a chance? Here comes my pep talk--don't be afraid to venture into the world of haiku!

Simple exercises can help get you started. One idea I particularly like:

"Try to write a haiku--or several haiku. Before you do, go to a natural setting and study a specific area. Visually create a circle thirty feet in diameter, and keep your eyes trained on that spot. When your observation connects with a specific movement, write our opening line. The movement may carry you through two lines, or just one. Either way, look for the juxtaposition in the relationship--aging willow/image unsteady--and use the rest of your haiku to write it out. Write sparsely and with precision. When you've completed your written observation, hone it to a 5-7-5 syllable count but leave nothing essential out." --"Experience the World Precisely" at Poetry Through the Ages

Charles Trumbull, editor of Modern Haiku has said, "Haiku, like other forms of poetry, are vehicles for transmitting meaning." Using haiku as a vehicle we come to day twenty-two haiku:

violet face sweet
quietness tucked in the grass...
smiles pass hand to heart
--Kenda Turner