A Wordsmith Studio Homecoming

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Three years ago this month, with a touch of amusement and curiosity, I committed to participating in a Writers Platform Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer (Writer’s Digest/Poetic Asides) on his My Name is Not Bob blog. I remember the month as a whirlwind of online activity. Truly, at the time, all I knew how to do online was search, email, and Facebook. Daily, Robert walked us through how to set up a blog, how to join Linked In, how to participate in a Twitter chat, how to think like a writer, and  . . . basically anything and everything else we needed to know about branding and connecting as writers.

(I like to kid that it’s Not Bob’s fault that I’m addicted to social media.)

Out of that challenge arose Wordsmith Studio, an online writer’s group. We share information, host weekly Twitter chats, challenge each other, critique each other’s manuscripts, cheer each other’s victories, and lament the defeats. Many of us have forged friendships and met in person. I love our bantering about pantsers and liners. I love the easy-going sass and wit. I love that there is always someone to kiss our boo boos then tell us to get back on the horse.

For me personally, in the past three years I have had dozens of poems published, finished one novel, began a chapbook, began taking copyediting classes, and created a handful of websites and blogs for myself and others including my church and a few businesses.

This is something I never thought I’d be able to do. Nobody else knows more than me how technically inept I am. (I had to get today’s PAD prompt in there!)

But, without Not Bob’s challenge, I’d would have never known what I could do. So, I want to take this moment to personally thank him.

And to thank all my Wordsmith Studio partners and friends.

Three years down.

Here’s to thirty more!

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6 a.m. and still no coffee

This week at Wordsmith Studio we’re cranking our brains. (just a little bit because this week is just too busy to do much else.)

The premise: The first Thanksgiving in America was held October 1621 by Plymouth Colony Pilgrims in appreciation of assistance from members of the Massasoit tribe and celebration of the first harvest.

The lesson:  But, did you know the phrase “to give thanks,” is from the same root as “think?” So, in essence, the word Thanksgiving is a THOUGHT and EXPRESSION of thanks.

The prompt: There are 370 words that can be created from the word Thanksgiving, not including proper names. THINK of eight and then write your giblets off.

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6 a.m. and no coffee

Resting at my morning round table
Tending to the schooled knights of old
Thinking the giant thoughts of saints
Inking last minute history essays
Brain crumbling into ash

For the Love of Poetry


Photo credit: Patuska from morguefile.com

In the past few posts, we’ve explored the depths of poetic fears and even the occasional cloaked hatred of poetry. We’ve also discussed some strategies for dealing with those issues which included talk therapy and a type of systematic desensitization.

Today, let’s explore some reasons we like poetry or dare I say, love poetry? What lures us to this word-art form?

According to the data collected from an esteemed selective demographic—my own group of WordSmith Studio poets, reasons vary poet-to-poet.

And they span the entire spectrum from: “It’s the one that gives me the most room to play.”(thank you, Khara House) to compelling altruistic reasons.

The poll results indicate:

  • One poet admits to reading poetry because it doesn’t take long to read.
  • One says she develops a new sense of empathy for others.
  • One likes poetry because it helps her to be more creative.
  • Two WSS poets say that poetry helps them express their feelings.

For four of us, however, poetry presents us with a new perspective on life and I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that for the others, this is true, too.

I’m going to camp on this last one for the rest of this post because it deserves some attention.

Didn’t your mama tell you not to stand on the furniture?

Remember in Dead Poets Society when John Keating (Robin Williams) instructs his students to stand on the school desk as a reminder to look at the world in a different way? He tells them “just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way.”

He gave them permission to climb on top of the desk. Some readily did, some were reluctant. For all it was transforming.

A few years ago, I adopted the motto Tertuim Quid.

Definition from the On-line Etymology Dictionary:

“Tertuim Quid: 1724, Latin, literally “third something,” loan-translation of Greek triton ti (Plato), used in alchemy for ‘unidentified element present in a combination of two known ones.’”

Okay, that makes no sense.

Here’s a better definition from the Free Dictionary:

1. Something related in some way to two things, but distinct from both; something intermediate between two things.

I confess to not being the brightest jellybean in the bowl, so I brought this down a notch.

Tertuim Quid: the third thing, the other thing.

Here’s how it works in my mind:

  1. The first thing: MY preconceived notion of a situation or ideology.
  2. The second thing: MY preconceived notions of what YOUR perspective is based on MY preconceived experiences or information.
  3. The third thing: That place from which I stand on a desk and view that other perspective. It might be several perspectives, but within a poem, it is that writer’s perspective. At that moment. About a situation or feeling or thought. Even if that poet is writing in the voice of an anonymous narrator or character.

Tertuim Quid is that defining  moment when I begin to perceive a point-of-view that is different from my preconceived thoughts, something I hadn’t previously conceived or cognitively entertained.

This third thing, thus, also assists me in becoming more empathetic . It encourages creative thinking. It encourages expression of feelings in that we can feel safe to write vulnerably if our readers are thinking tertuim quid (Yes, I just verbed tertuim quid)

In other words, if they, too are standing on their desks.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

(Unlike drama, I’m not going to encourage you to break a leg.)

One last thought:

Agreement is not the end-all and purpose of a poem.

Expression is.

Understanding is.

Connection is.

Keating goes to to tell his students, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. . .  poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

As Sabra Powers stated, “poetry is the most powerful, connecting, and meaningful writing I know.”

You just can’t say that about any other form of writing.

Or can you?

What’s your tertuim quid on this perspective?

***

Originally post on the the WordSmith Studio site

Platform Diving

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Message to Readers: This is a One-Year Anniversary Reunion Post celebrating Not Bob’s Platform Challenge of 2012. I thought about writing a song or a sonnet or a tiny haiku but I knew my poetry wouldn’t suffice so I just chose to tell my story of . . .

the_diving_platform, simeon

Platform Diving

For the past several years, the word Platform has been circling the writing world. Those with the loudest voices were telling us what they knew— authors must build a Platform to be successful.

Platform is gold. So we were told.

Build yours with panache.

Build it with gusto.

Build it and THEY will come.

And buy your stuff.

That stuff you wrote back when you thought all you needed was the elusive omniscient agent.

(Please, please read that as We Love Agents! They know stuff and we like that they know stuff!)

But when was THAT?

In days of old, you, as author, wrote then scavenged for an agent, and waited while Agent Max (or Maxine) secreted away your hard-copy manuscript into the hands of editors. Max then gathered the sparkling clean copy and went to battle with publishing houses for dollars. Two for you, one for him or one for Maxine. (that’s hyperbole, kids!)

In those days, cell phones were the size of tissue boxes and Harry Potter was still a babe secretly living with his parents in Godric’s Hallow. (hyperbole? not so much.)

Those were the dark ages.

Now writers/authors have been handed the media reins or reigns. Whichever way you see it, we still love agents!

And the buzz word is . . .

Like most writers, I like words.

I like to tangle them up and make something new from them. But, this  Platform word that was buzzing around town was already a tangled word with mermaid tail hype attached to it.

Glossy, shiny, beckoning.

It implied inherent techno-abilities and time spent jigging through computer jargon and hours of key-stroking through harsh tidal waves of the world wide web. 

I decided I didn’t like this word; it stunk of diving into unchartered waters.

From. Way. High. Up.

I hate heights.

I was a fearful lowly poet.

I was a fearful lost fiction writer who enjoyed underground solitude.

lost, ZoofyTheJi

Platform Splat-form.

What do poets and fiction writers need a platform for anyway? That was for non-fiction writers. People on a mission with a bold message.

But not always. 

Jane Friedman writes that ALL writers can benefit from some kind of platform, but it needs to evolve organically. And it isn’t a magic wand so I decided to take a back seat to it while I figured out what I really wanted to do on this new planet of authorship.

The one I imagined a thousand years ago.

But, then along came Not Bob and his April 2012 Platform challenge.

As some of you know, Not Bob goes by another name—Robert Brewer from the far land of Poetic Asides where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of Writer’s Digest.*

Poets from around the globe often romped and shared cyber tea on the street called Poetic Asides. Mostly on Wednesdays, but especially in the months of April and November. Both of which hath thirty days but I don’t think that’s why Robert chose to hold his Poem-A-Day challenge during those months. For my metrophobic friends, April is National Poetry month and his PAD challenge. November happens to be the month Robert holds his chapbook challenge.

I had walked that Poetic Asides PAD street several times.

So, when Not Bob, who is not Not Bob at Poetic Asides, but rather, Robert, offered his Platform challenge, it didn’t seem as intimidating coming from him so I stuck my toe into the frigid waters.

And stalked.

A person can soak up some rays, read a few poems, kick around on a noodle, and even climb atop someone else’s platform to learn the DIY’er tricks, but at some point, you gotta take the plunge.

Just dive, already!

Not Bob’s challenge was three days in and I was still viewing it from the edge of the pool. That would get me nowhere if I was ever to conceive my own platform, and so from on high, I belly-flopped into the pool like an 80’s disco ball.

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I gulped mouthfuls of new terminology and tried to force-feed my WordPress blog,which enjoyed sputtering my posts back in my face. But, that was because I wasn’t nice to it and didn’t speak its language.

I floundered in the acronym waters of SEO and HTML and URL’s, PDF’s and WIP’s and .coms and .orgs and I didn’t know which way was up. Just when waves of gravatars and thumbnails and URL shortener’s tumbled over me, I surfaced for a breath and tumbled back under.

We were challenged to dive into Twitter-opia, Facebook Author Page Land, and LinkedIn, wherever that was.

Every day in April, Not Bob presented us with a new challenge. Every day, my frustration grew at my incompetence.

But, in between head-bashing and word-slashing, I realized that my knowledge, my skills, and even my goggled (Googled) vision had grown.

All with the assistance of Not Bob and scores of other plebe Platform builders.

And I became we.

WE were underwater carpenters foraging for tools thrown from other platforms. All we needed to do was collect them and use them and suddenly creating a Platform didn’t seem impossible or just for those other guys who wrote for real money.

tools, Rogel

Thanks to Not Bob and his month of challenges, I (and WE) can now DO Social Media as well as, if not better, than those other guys.

This post is the fourth in a communal series of blog posts celebrating the first year anniversary of the spin-off group of writers who participated in that challenge.

We first gathered as Not Bobbers, which I personally loved, but we morphed into WordSmith Studio, which I also love.

WordSmith Studio is the writer’s group I never expected nor did I realize I was missing.

As a direct result of this group, I have been published in several literary magazines and anthologies. I have learned not to fear submitting. The world will not fall apart when I am rejected. If I fall momentarily fall apart, I can cry into my tea cup on the WSS Facebook page where I know I’ll be supported.

For we are a chatty group.

We Tweet Chat and Google Chat and chat on Goodreads and Pinterest and Facebook and we message each other and blog hop together and read books together and create new challenges for each other and submit poems together and publish each other and guest blog together.

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We edit, we urge, we organize, we spur each other on, we sympathize, we sometimes play, we joke, we play jokes, we rejoice in each other’s victories, and tear up during shared hard times.

And we even . . . email sometimes.

(Wow, that seems so archaic.)

I can now claim, it’s Not Bob’s fault I’m addicted to social media.

I’m also not so lost any more and most of the time, my head is above water.

For me, a new author website is in the works. A new direction. A new voice.

It’s been a journey of exploration and I’m proud to stand with and be a part of WordSmith Studio.

The celebratory month of party blog-hopping and beach blog volleyball has begun. (who’s wearing their itsy-bitzy teeny-weeney yellow polka-dot bikini?)

handwriting, remind

I say, Let Us Eat Cake! Whoo Hoo! 

***

*thanks to Mr. Tumnus the Faun and C.S. Lewis.

Special thanks, also, to Not Bob aka: Robert Lee Brewer, who ironically shares his first and middle name with my father who is, by the way, Bob.

And to my WSS family–I’m tipping my hat and raising a glass or two to you!

To US!

***

This post is brought to you today by the poetic device: Hyperbole.
and some pics via stockxchng