Friday, March 28, 2014

Tips on Writing Humor, Part Two

Really, Spring? Is this some kind of joke?

This month, Part Two of Tips on Writing Humor takes a peek at how farce and sarcasm are used in fiction.

Farce

In my search for humorous reads, I picked up the perfect book: The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs,  from the hilarious trilogy about Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld, author of that great triumph of Germanic scholarship, Portuguese Irregular Verbs. The book is by Alexander McCall Smith, the prolific and illustrious author of many other series, including the popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I enjoy all of McCall-Smith's books, though I found the Von Igelfeld trilogy the most delightful. Anyone can take these books at face value and enjoy them. But I had to keep my wits about me, for I was on an important comedic quest. So, hang on. Some of what I found may not seem to pertain to writing, but as I quickly learned how LARGE the subject of humor is, I realized I wanted to learn as much as I could in order to use humor effectively.

Von Igelfeld goes to America

In his article, "An Anatomy of Farce," Michael Arditti helped me make sense of the premise behind Von Igelfeld's shenanigans.

                           "The action of a farce is propelled by panic, with characters lying to save
                           face, which compounds their troubles since they now have to deal not only
                           with the original problem but also they lie and hence they behave even
                           more bizarrely."

Not to be outdone by his colleague, Printzel, who had been invited to America, Von Igelfeld connived to obtain an invitation to visit America himself, and leave before Printzel had a chance to go. He believed he better represented German philology, his area of expertise, far better than the inferior Printzel. Off Von Igelfeld went, not to prestigious-sounding New York or California, but to the University of Arkansas in the Ozark mountains. Upon arrival, Von Igelfeld is flummoxed by his host's insistence on visiting his hog operation before anything else. The professor  " . . . sniffed the air; it was distinctly malodorous."

                          "In farce, after the first ten minutes there’s no time to make jokes because
                          they’re so busy running around;  the laughs come from character and situation.
                          The biggest laughs in farce are on lines like “what?”

Von Igelfeld is equally confused by the farmer's questions on doses of vitamin C, B, potassium. We soon realize Von Igelfeld's dilemma when he finds he has been mistaken for Professor Martin Igelfold, author of Further Studies of Canine Pulmonary Efficiency, and the world authority on sausage dogs, from the University of Münster. While Von Igelfeld had come to America to discuss verbs, he finds that he is expected to lecture to an audience of scientists, veterinarians and dog breeders on a subject he knows nothing about: sausage dogs. (He didn't know that sausage dogs were first brought to America by German settlers in the 1890's and bred  here ever since). And so the lies begin. And grow to monstrous proportions in the professor's attempts to save face. Even later he maintains his cool when confronted by a guest who pulls him aside to tell him how sorry he was to read about his death. But no worries, professor. The guest assured him his obituary had been a glowing account.

Satire 101

Satire can be directed toward an individual, a country, or even the world. It can be serious, as when used as a protest or for exposure. In humor it is used to make fun of something or someone. At its best, satire is used as a vehicle for improvement. Here is as example of how Mark Twain used satire:

                         "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written shortly after the Civil War,
                         in which slavery was one of the key issues. While Mark Twain's father had
                         slaves throughout his childhood, Twain did not believe that slavery was right
                         in any way. Through the character of Jim, and the major moral dilemma that
                         followed Huck throughout the novel, Twain mocks slavery and makes
                         a strong statement about the way people treated slaves."

Verbal and Dramatic Irony: In irony, words are used to show the opposite of the actual meaning. An example of verbal irony is when a friend shows up for dinner and the host says, "Look who the cat dragged in." Described in several ways in the article "Types of Irony," dramatic irony is:
  • considered by many writers as a potent tool for exciting and sustaining readers' interest
  • a plot device used to create situations where the reader knows much more about the episodes and resolutions before the characters
  • involves the reader, raises expectations, intensifies episodes, and propels stories forward.
Examples of dramatic irony include Shakespeare's plays, such as Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet; Animal Farm by George Orwell, where the reader is aware of many more facts than the animals. O. Henry's short story, "The Gift of the Magi" is an excellent example, found on the online resource Your Dictionary:

                        A poor couple, very much in love, want to give a Christmas gift to
                       one another. "She is very proud of her long, beautiful hair and he is equally
                       proud of his pocket watch. The irony comes in to play when she cuts and
                       sells her hair to buy him a chain for his watch, and he sells the watch to buy
                       her combs for her hair." 

Parody: Directly mimics a subject for a humorous effect. A well-known example is how Saturday Night Live often parodies movies, commercials and television shows. As described at http://literarydevices.net/parody/, in literature Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, parodied, " . . . in the style of Spanish romances of the 16th century to mock the idealism of knights in the contemporary romances." When combined with satire, parody can make satire more effective. It adds flavor and helps keep the reader's interest. In order to be successful, the original subject must be thoroughly known. 

Sarcasm: Sharp or cutting remarks get their meaning across with sarcasm, but need to be made with a light touch in order to be humorous and not hurtful. Some of the most famous funny sarcastic remarks were made by Groucho Marx: "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception," and ""Marriage is the chief cause of divorce."

For Kicks and Giggles

Screwball Comedy: Now I learned something here. At first, movies like Dumb and Dumber immediately came to mind as examples of screwball comedy. But according to the Wiki definition, Dumb and Dumber is an example of slapstick comedy, the type of comedy portrayed by absurd situations and physical antics. Screwball comedy originated in Hollywood, and lasted from 1934 to 1942. Like Some Like it Hot and The Philadelphia Story, this type of movie offered up romantic comedies with farcical situations; such films provided escape and offered hope during the Great Depression. The current romantic comedy Date Night, starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, is noted as containing some screwball comedy elements. Goodreads provides a short list of current screwball comedy books at http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/screwball-comedy

Dark Comedy: Takes an otherwise serious subject and makes it humorous, such as in HBO's True Blood series about vampires living among the residents of Bon Temps, Mississippi. Examples in literature include, Kurt Vonnegut's books, Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, and A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess.

More Ways to Exercise your Funny Bone
  • Amuse yourself, and take honest pleasure in your amusement. Dinty Moore, from How to Be Funny, edited by John B. Kachuka
  • Be honest. Characters need to make choices that feel real in the context of the world that you've created. Dinty Moore, from How to Be Funny, edited by John B. Kachuka
  • Your humor must move the story forward or illuminate your theme. Justin Halpern
  • Surprise Yourself: Take the world as it is and show it to us upside-down. You must surprise yourself first. You must be . . . a bit of an anarchist, someone who doesn't mind shouting a bit, or telling ani-knock knock jokes. Robin Hemley, "Relaxing the rules of Reason," from How to Be Funny, Kachuka.
  • Keep a Humor Log: Collect funny names and incidences. When you find yourself laughing at something, or something funny occurs to you, write it down. If writing for children, note what age group the humor might appeal to."Writing Humor--But, Seriously, Folks," by Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alpern, Writer's Digest, January 1982.
  • Listen to humor in TV shows: Go into another room and listen to television comedies; listen for the plot development, the setup, placement and rhythm of funny lines and the building to a climax. "Writing Humor--But, Seriously, Folks," by Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alpern, Writer's Digest, January 1982.
  • Read humor analyses by such comics as Jack Benny and Johnny Carson. I've begun by buying, How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba, which is a compilation of essays by humorists and is chock full of good advice.

Sources: http://www.michaelarditti.com/non-fiction/an-anatomy-of-farce/  http://examples.yourdictionary.com/satire-examples.htmlhttp://typesofirony.com/dramatic-irony/  
http://examples.yourdictionary.com/satire-examples.html.

Next month: You Know You're a Writer When . . .




Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-10 year olds. Follow Linda on Facebook.




Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

When I was a child, I lingered with my Golden Books, intently studying the pictures. They were as important, if not more important, than the story. 

We all know how moving a picture can be to help tell a story - whether simple or complex. But how about the picture being the source of inspiration for a story or article?

If you're feeling the late winter slump (particularly those of us who live where spring is in a holding pattern), grab a book of photographs and find a cozy spot to browse and reflect.

Time Life, National Geographic, and even your own photo albums are chock full of material to get you thinking. Not only that, but it is relaxing and will help take your mind off everything that vies for attention.

I keep my iPhone or camera handy and I'm in the routine of capturing special moments in time. 

I took this picture when I went snowshoeing this winter and it produced several ideas for an article.



When I woke up one morning in my daughter's apartment, this is what I saw:


(That one is tucked away for later).

Here's one from my backyard, just before a storm. As I watched the sky groan with turmoil, it conjured up a plot of the struggles that can come in a relationship.


Finally, some years ago, my 5-year-old made this drawing on our computer. It sparked an idea for a children's book I'd like to write:



If you haven't tried letting pictures help you write, try it!

Whatever your genre, pictures will help you paint a thousand words.  

~~~

After raising and homeschooling her 8 children, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -http://kathleenmoulton.com


Photo credit: Kathleen Moulton © all rights reserved




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's Your Procrastination Style?

Are you struggling to finish a manuscript?  Maybe you have a dream to be published and you know what you want to write, but you’re not making any progress. If this sounds like you, it's likely you are procrastinating.  
If you are feeling frozen, it's useful to spend some time considering what’s behind your procrastination. Identifying what’s in your way, can help get you moving.  In Dr. Linda Sapadin’s book, It’s About Time!: The Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them, she discusses procrastinator types.  The following is a quick overview:
  1.  The perfectionist – They don’t finish projects because they need to be perfect and if it’s not done than it can’t be imperfect.
  2. The Dreamer – It can be fun to dream about doing something, but actually having to do the work and focus on details is another story.
  3. The Worrier –  This is living with the cup half empty.  Worriers fear change, they want to know the future.  What if the cup ends up empty?
  4. The Defier –  Does resistance to authority keep you from moving forward?  Do you resent being told what to do?  Many high school students who want to go away to school procrastinate filling out their college applications because their parents told them ‘to get it done’.
  5. The Crisis-Maker – Some people need to feel backed up against a deadline to get moving.  They feel most productive and alive when working in the overload mode.
  6. The Overdoer – I think a better name for this type of procrastinator is the Over-Giver.  It’s the person on every committee, the one always taking on the extra project.  An Over-Giver always has more to do than she has time for.  Did you notice I said “she”?  I think there are cultural messages that have created the Over-Giver.
Knowing your procrastination style can help you uncover the root of the problem and is often the first step towards changing your behavior.  So what type of procrastinator are you?
Once you analyzed your procrastination style, check out T. Forehand suggestions in a recent blog post on tips for overcoming procrastination.   In a follow-up post next month, I will share the results of the survey and provide specific suggestions for each type of procrastinator.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out:

http://facebook.com/DoNorth.biz  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing Challenges

With a novella due for inclusion in a seasonal anthology, I have to stop dithering and impel myself to write. At the start date I could have written 1000 words a week. Now I need to push out 1000 words a day--not too difficult for a regular writer, much more difficult for a beginner or inveterate procrastinator like me.

But serendipity as always came to the rescue and emails this week brought news of two challenging incentives ideal for the purpose.

Camp NanoWrimo is allocating virtual cabins with up to 11 fellow writers as from tomorrow. The joy of this Nanowrimo adventure  is that you choose your own project and word count, use their writing resources, and hopefully meet friends or new writing friends along the way.

You have from now till April 1 to plan your project and get ready for the off.  I have in the past been a Nanowrimo winner but the November effort totally exhausted me. This is far more doable.

To prepare for the off, I recommend joining Lazette Gifford's Forward Motion for WritersSadly we are too late to sign up for her free two year course for novelists--have to wait now till 2015--but there is still one remaining five day March Challenge from March 26-30. You can sign on at several levels and aim for higher wordcounts but I've started at Level One and 1000 words a day. Just post your wordcount per day or at the end of the challenge.

The site is full of writing help, resources and support and well worth a visit.

Camp Nanowrimo
http://campnanowrimo.org/news 

Camp Manual and fun introductory questionnaire
http://campnanowrimo.org/news/the-camp-manual-choosing-your-own-adventure

Forward Motion for Writers
http://www.fmwriters.com/zoomfm/

And if you're a committed procrastinator like me, start by reading (or rereading) Terri Forehand's WOTM article on beating procrastination.

www.writersonthemove.com/2014/03/beating-procrastination-and-increasing.html




 Anne Duguid is a freelance content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she passes on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips from time to time at Slow and Steady Writers 


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Computer and Internet Safety – Not Just for Writers

The Big Day, April 8, is fast approaching. After April 8, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for Windows XP. The last Patch Tuesday was March 11. Did you download this Windows update?

If any of your computers still have XP, you might be able to upgrade your Operating System or buy a new computer. This has been discussed on various websites. In case you aren't aware or need additional information, Microsoft, Kim Komando, and Gizmag offer the latest news on their sites.   

However, if you decide to keep XP, Network World has some recommendations from F-Secure.

I have two old computers with XP. One will not be used with the internet. I plan to use this desk top for other things for as long as it lasts. For my laptop, I might attempt to upgrade with the Vista disk I received years ago. At the time, I decided not to install Vista, as I had read so many negative comments about it.

I am shopping around for a new computer with 8 or 8.1, but have yet to make a decision. I also have access to a computer with Windows 7, so this may be my best choice for now.

If you are looking for a cheap computer, Kim Komando has some suggestions. Information on tablets can also be found at Kim’s site.

I hope this post will help you make a decision. Whatever you choose to do, good luck and stay safe!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

What is Your Tagline? Part I

Have you ever watched an ad on TV and wondered out loud, "Now what on earth are they advertising?" I have. Many times. Usually by the end of the advert I begin to hazard a guess. Sometimes I'm right. Sometimes I'm totally wrong.

The movie clip that is clearly advertising some sort of drink ends up promoting a make of cellphone. Or the gripping little video showing a cute toddler and a rescue dog is really trying to get me to buy a bar of chocolate. Their taglines are not clear, if they are even present.

Until 2010, I had never even heard of a tagline. Then I attended a continuing workshop at the Florida Christian Writers Conference. The workshop leader was Laura Christianson of the Blogging Bistro. She led us through a series of exercises in an attempt to establish a "tagline" for our writing.

"A tagline is a slogan that succinctly, memorably, and descriptively sums up a company or product." (Thanks to Wisegeek.com for this definition.) So as a writer, I needed a slogan that would sum up my writing.

Hmm. Not so easy.

I learned a lot about myself during Laura's series of workshops, but I left without a tagline. It wasn't Laura's fault. My problem was that I seemed to have several genres.
  • I write to encourage writers. 
  • I write inspirational material. 
  • I write devotional material.
  • And as a cancer survivor I write to encourage those in the valley of cancer.
I had two websites. Two blogs. Two Twitter accounts. Two genres. Several newsletters.

And no tagline.

Some weeks after the conference, I realised what had been looking me in the face all the way through those exercises. I live to encourage and inspire others who are struggling in some way. Even as a youngster at school, I inevitably befriended the kid that had no other friends. I didn't write in a variety of genres at all. I wrote articles to inspire and encourage.

I searched for a definition of a tagline for writers and came across this one on a forum, which I have slightly modified: A tagline is a concise statement of your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It is a short slogan that tells what you do, what benefit you offer, and what makes you different, all at the same time."

And so I looked at
  • what I did (I wrote. I encouraged. I inspired.) 
  • what benefit I had to offer. (I encouraged and inspired people.) 
  • what made me different. (I am a writer, a cancer survivor, and a Christian who wants to encourage.)
And at last, I had a tagline. The Write to Inspire and Encourage.

How has this helped me? I now have one newsletter: The Write to Inspire. Although I still have two websites they have a common goal. ShirleyCorder.com is to inspire and encourage writers, while RiseAndSoar.com is to inspire and encourage those in the cancer valley. The tag is not perfect, and I'm sure it will develop as the years go by. But at least it tells people who I am.

Some taglines are more catchy than others. Even Coke, surely one of the experts in the field of catchy slogans, changes theirs often. Remember "Coke is It!"? That dates back to 1981. "Things go better with Coca Cola" goes back even further—to 1963! Every year or two, the manufacturers of this drink come up with a new tagline. But I have to say this for them. I always understand what they're advertising.

OVER TO YOU: Do you have a tagline? 
  • If you do, please share it here. 
  • And if you don't?  Maybe work through those three points above and see if you can come up with one. Share it and if you like invite comments and suggestions. 
  • Next month, same time (April 20) same place we'll look at some taglines that work really well, and see what we can learn from them. Maybe we can all improve our current tags.
SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her sojourn in the cancer valley.

Please visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com, where she inspires and encourages writers, or at  RiseAndSoar.com, where she inspires and encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beating Procrastination and Increasing Productivity

 Procrastination by definition is the act of avoiding an action or activity. It can creep in when you least expect it taking up valuable writing and marketing time. Spring is one of the worst times for me when procrastination hits full force. After all, there are windows to clean, yard work to do, Easter to plan, sunshine to enjoy and the list goes on. There will always be "things that need doing" or "places to go" but what about the writing time? And marketing and promoting is one of those activities that I definitely procrastinate at. So how to beat procrastination and increase productivity while still enjoying time to do other things becomes a life skill necessary for writers to master?


Schedule writing and marketing activities first. That may sound easy but I am sure you will agree that it is anything but. The act of putting writing/marketing time on the daily calendar is the first step but it takes discipline to stick to the plan. Although the calendar is not written in stone, it helps to make it a practice to follow a schedule. That being said, avoid over scheduling. Making an unreasonable plan of action will lead to more procrastination and a backlog of work.


Set Goals. Setting goals has been a lesson for writers in every genre. While authors may disagree about outlines versus story arcs, character sketches versus writing free form, or the importance of theme versus plot most agree that setting goals for a successful writing career is invaluable. The key is to  make them attainable and to revisit them often to test your progress.


Rest. Students get a spring break to rest, take a break, and to rejuvenate for the remainder of the school year. It is usually a rest period from sports practices, testing, and homework. Writers need the same kind of break. Schedule not only a rest period for the story or article you have written so you have a clear eye to revise, but schedule a rest from writing altogether. It may be only a day or even a few hours but take time to get clear away from the act of writing and marketing and enjoy something different. Here is where you can do that gardening, window washing, or shopping with the grand kids. Take advantage of rest periods and notice how fresh your work looks when you get back to it.


Look honestly at the activities which cause more procrastination than others. Usually those are the types of things that you don't like to do or that make you uncomfortable. For me, it is definitely the marketing or promoting myself. For others it might be the business side of writing, tax and record keeping, or even the research. Schedule those activities that you don't enjoy but are necessary first. Get them over with so you can move on to the writing and creating, the one activity all of us love to do.


Scheduling the tasks in a manageable order and allowing reasonable increments of time to accomplish each item will help beat procrastination and increase productivity. Target each task towards a specific writing goal and those action steps will lead to success.


Happy writing and Happy Spring!



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Help For Writers

A number of years ago I attended the meetings of a group as part of the research necessary for a novel I was writing at that time. Today, after all that time, someone asked me how I had found them. I did admit they were research.

As a writer I am often interested in learning new things, meeting different people and exploring new places. All of these things have found their way into my writing in some way or another.

Often writers use books for their research, and lots can be found on the internet, but perhaps your best information will come from someone.

Credibility can be improved by taking the time to meet with people who work in the careers you are writing about. For example: you have a character who is hurt and admitted to the hospital. Finding someone who works in admitting at your local ER can give you an insight into how things will be handled that might be missed otherwise. Or perhaps a nurse can advise you. Even though we consider them minor characters, the lawyer, the police officer, the teacher, or the barista, each of them will have a reader that will either resonate with what you've written or write you off.

The process of research can take many other forms as well. Taking photographs and studying pictures of an area or group of people can give you insight. Drawing or sketching rocks, trees, skylines, etc may give you a reference that will add a new dimension to your story. Geography and climate can also add a tremendous amount to your work as well.

So how can you really expand your insight? Get inside the community your character lives in. Visit laundry mats and diners. Listen to conversations between real people. Ask questions of those who work in the fields your characters do. Read manuals on equipment, plant and bird guides for the area, and geology reports. Visit graveyards, community historic buildings and museums.

Then take your writing to a new level and see how real your entire world becomes.

__________________________________

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com

You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Writing a Novel - 3 Myths You Should Not Believe

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach




Many people dream of writing a novel one day.

In fact, most people dream of seeing their name on the cover of a best-selling book.

But when it comes to actually sitting down and writing a novel – from start to finish – most people fall short.

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are 3 myths about writing a novel. If you believe one or more of these myths, your believe could be what’s holding you back from writing that novel you’ve always dreamed of writing.

It’s time to dispel these myths.

Myth #1 It Takes a Year or Longer to Write a Good Novel

If you think it’s going to take at least a year to write a novel, no wonder you keep giving up or never get started.

While it does take many authors a year or even longer to write their novels, this doesn’t have to be the case for you.

In fact, it’s not the case for thousands of published authors.

It's possible to write a great novel in just a few short months – if you know how to do it.

This leads to the next myth.

Myth #2 Planning a Novel Takes Away All the Fun of Writing It

Many wanna be novelists are under the mistaken impression that if they plan their novel in great detail, writing their novel won’t be any fun at all.

They think that if they know everything that will happen in their novel before they write it, there will be no surprises for them along the way.

It's understandable how writers who have never written a novel could believe this myth. But it simply isn’t true.

Planning a novel actually makes the writing process more enjoyable and leaves room for plenty of surprises for the author as he writes each chapter.

Adequate planning also helps the author stay on track with his writing and avoid writer’s block that can result if the author has no idea where the story is going.

Myth #3 It Takes Talent to Write a Good Novel

Talent is a wonderful thing.

But not all best-selling novelists have great talent.

What they do have is knowledge and skill.

They know and understand all the components of a good novel, and they have the skills to effectively include all these elements in their own novels.

So now that you know that:

1) writing a novel can take just a few months.
2) planning your novel will not take away all the fun of writing it.
3) you don't need talent to write a novel, you just need knowledge and skill.

Why not FINALLY write that novel you've been dreaming of writing?

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She can help you write a novel in just 16 weeks when you register for her Book Boot Camp for Novelists.

Monday, March 10, 2014

On performing poetry – slam bam thank you ma’am



I think at heart I’ve always been a rock and roll star.  I can’t pick up my guitar or sing along to my favourite tunes without visualising myself on-stage before a rapturous crowd.  But it irritates me that the words I’m singing along to are often dumb.  Sung or spoken with enough conviction, almost anything can move a crowd.  Bush and slam poetry sometimes makes emotive appeal and delivery its end goal – taking simple sentences or stream of consciousness outpourings and speaking them with punch.  I’ve attended a couple of events recently that have had me picturing the spoken poem on the page and no matter how powerful the performance, finding it wanting.  I’ve done the same with music lyrics and been similarly disappointed, even with my very favourite songs.  Neither is an appropriate response, but being a wordgirl, I just can’t help myself.   However, I can’t let go of the notion that poetry is a natural medium for performance, and that the best way of getting people, especially young people, interested in poetry is perform it, with enough pizzazz for anyone – even the person who claims to ‘not be into poetry’ or to ‘not have time to read’ (yes, that puts a shiver down my spine too), to feel the power of what you’ve written. 

Is there really a disconnect between performance poetry (that is, poetry written specifically for the purposes of performance, rather than for distribution on the page), and traditional poetry (that is, poetry written to be read on page rather than performed)?  Are the two mutually exclusive?  I think not.  The best performances, for me at least, are those which take what works perfectly on the page, using imagery and subtlety, and presents it outloud with rich nuances that might not have hit me on my first few readings, or ever.  Of course the performance of poetry is one of the oldest of art forms, going back to Gilgamesh, to the Ramayana, to Homer.  It tugs at something rather deep in our preliterate psyche.   Getting the listener to feel that tug, and recognise the meaning being created is what a good poetry performance is all about.

I also think that the best performances morph what is on the page into a new medium.  It turns the verbal into the visual, showing what kind of power words can have.  The best poems for performance have an innate musicality, using alliteration, rhythm, rhyme and assonance to further add meaning.  As the great Basil Bunting put it, it is only when ‘sounded’ that this rhythm reveals its full power.  Bunting should know. He was one of the great poetry performers, charging his words with the power of a Shakespearean actor to take the audience deep into the heart of his meaning, effortlessly and instantly.  The performances draw the reader into the intimacy of the work, breaking open the familiar so that it appears completely, surprisingly new.  Of course that’s what great poetry does on the page too, but it takes a commitment on the part of the reader to get there.  Gaining that sort of commitment from a reader isn’t always easy.  Ask any publisher who sells poetry.  Ask any poet who publishes their work.  

Performance is something entirely different.  When done properly, with a poem that truly merits more, rather than less, commitment on the part of a reader, the performance can become its own work of art – like the musical symphony, stirring something inchoate and deep within a listener.  It draws a crowd, and challenges perceptions.  It can work, and should work, in conjunction with the publication – to bring in readers, and to compel people to explore their own clichés and assumptions about themselves.  It opens doors. 
   
Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

11 Essentials of a Good Query Letter


Query image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
Query image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
"11 Essentials of a Good Query Letter" by Joan Y. Edwards
Does your query letter have what It takes? Does it contain all the essentials of a good query letter? Does it have all the necessary ingredients to cook up a good deal for you?
A great query letter follows the latest guidelines of the editor or agent listed online. Here are 11 essentials of a good query letter:
  1. Your manuscript is the genre this editor/agent accepts for representation and/or publication.
  2. Gives the following information at the top right hand side: your name, address, city, state, zip code, phone number, email, websites, and blogs, and date.
  3. Puts the name editor/agent, followed by name of publisher or agency in the left-hand side followed by Dear and the name of the editor or agent as directed by the guidelines.
  4. Contains a great selling pitch that leaves the agent or publisher so moved by the story that they can't wait to see your full manuscript.
  5. Tells why you believe this editor/agent is the right one for this book.
  6. Compares your story to 1-3 books published by this publisher or represented by this agent.
  7. Explains why you are the best person to write this story and gives your credentials.
  8. Asks the question: "May I send you my manuscript?"
  9. Thanks the editor or agent for considering your work.
  10. States when you expect to hear from him according to the guidelines.
  11. Send by email or snail mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) as specified by the guidelines.
Here's my article: "Components of a Good Query Letter." You might enjoy it.: http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/components-of-a-good-query-letter/

Thanks for reading this post. Please share what you believe are the essentials of a good query letter.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

My Books:
Flip Flap Floodle, even mean ole Mr. Fox can't stop this little duck
Paperback, Kindle and Nook
Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release date June 2014 by 4RV Publishing
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards