Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: June 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three Writing Rules

When I started talking to my editors about this book, I gave them special permission to ask any question they wanted, inquire about the back story of any poem. They have only taken advantage of this once and when they did, it was to ask if a poem was about romantic love. I assured them it was not and then I explained to them my three self-imposed rules limiting what I write.

  • I never write about romantic love. This is usually not something I have to state outright but now that I have a book with the word “love” in the title, I’m going to have to include this fact in the introduction so people know to look beyond that particular expression of bonding. Besides the fact the whole point of this book is to open up a wider view of what love is, I also don’t share something that can be so fleeting in so public of a forum.

  • I never mention names in poetry and rarely in a story. Even when I have someone particular in mind when writing a poem, I never mention their name. This is partly to protect them, partly to protect myself, and partly to let the reader interpret the words into their own life and story without being encumbered with my details. If I’m writing about my life in an article or as part of a talk, I will refer to a person via our relationship such as friend, mentor, or sister. If I use their name, it’s always just their first name with no personal details that is only their right to tell. Being in a personal relationship with a writer is hard enough without worrying about what they’re going to say about you.

  • I rarely share the stories behind the poems. One of the great things about poetry is people read their own lives into the poems and don’t often wonder at mine. Still, I rarely share my own experience behind them as I want my words to stand on their own merits. This rule also lets me write with greater honesty and openness knowing I can keep details to myself. Though my editors have permission to ask any questions they want, for the most part, I choose not to talk about the stories and leave people free to see themselves in what they read.

These three rules have helped immensely as I’ve written my books. They give me boundaries and help protect those I love.

What guidelines have you created for your writing?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Warning Labels for Writers - Publishing a Book Series

I joke that I ought to come with two warning labels worn as buttons on my clothing so everyone around me is prepared for what may come.

“Anything you do or say may and can be used in my next book.”
Much of my poetry is inspired by what I experience in life whether it’s watching a man dancing with wild abandon or the words said by a friend as she hugs me. I take those moments that stay with me, haunting my deeper awareness, and turn them around in my head by writing them down. If the poems are good enough, I then share them in a book or magazine. Though most readers will never recognize where the words come from, some who know my heart well will recognize themselves and the words I’ve shared with them in the lines. The experiences of my life are what I draw on to share larger truths and I often include those I love in my words as it’s another way to treasure their presence in my life.

“I reserve the right to see in you the face of God.”
Sometimes when I’m looking at people, I see God in their faces. It’s such a beautiful sight and once in a while, what I see inspires what I write. One night I watched a woman at a concert clapping and dancing in her seat. I imagined it was God singing along and taking joy in the ones onstage. Another night I watched my art teacher work her way around the room encouraging and praising every student for their work. I take these moments of visibly seeing the qualities of God and include them in whatever I’m writing whether it’s an article or poem to illustrate my point or to give readers an image of God they not have thought of yet. It’s a joy to be always looking deeper into those around me to find God.

As I work on writing these last sixteen or so poems for the book, you can bet I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for experiences I can use whether or not the people around me know about the invisible warnings. You never know what I’m going to come up with next.

What other invisible warnings do you think writers should come with?

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Managing Multiple Editors - Publishing a Book Series

For several weeks, my editors have been across the board concerning how much of the book they’ve worked on. One editor has been through two out of three poetry batches and my other editors have only gone through the first. In between trips and holidays, I’ve been working on catching everyone up to the same point. Last week, I stayed with one of my editors so we could go over the third batch. In a few days, I’ll meet with my other two editors after they’ve arrived at the same point. I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of the new material and discussing some changes to writing they’ve already seen. I also want to start discussing the order of the book with them.

It’s been somewhat stressful having people at different places and keeping track of who has seen what but I would rather have this be a fun experience for my editors with no pressure to be done by a certain time. This is not always a grace I can confer but with no strict timeline to follow, I’m giving us all space. Two of my editors, especially, have enjoyed spacing the poems out, reflecting on one each day.

The point I want to get to is having a clean manuscript to set aside for a while. Once I’ve talked with everybody and made corrections to the master files, then backed them up, of course, I’ll print out all the poems, place them in the order I want them, and then store the manuscript away for a time so I can focus on writing the rest of the book.

When I’ve been at this point in the process before with the other books, I‘ve juggled two hats: one as a writer and one as a publisher. It’s a dichotomy I’m well used to as this is my fifth book but a benefit of taking my time with Finding Love’s Way is I can concentrate on one hat at a time whereas I usually have to juggle both in nearly equal measure. I deeply believe this book will be better for it. A beautiful place to be, I anticipate marking off the majority of the book as having been completely approved for publication and then having everyone on the same page once again.


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