Sunday, January 29, 2012

Writing Tip: 001

With my daughter's adoption just a little over a week away I have had quite a busy week. This spring I am also co-directing Roger's & Hammerstein's Cinderella (more on that in the weeks to come), however, I have still managed to make enough time this past week to make a few writing submissions.

So far every single one of my submissions has netted me a rejection letter. Some rejections are electronic, just a simple DECLINED on a status bar. Some come in the mail with little stationary from the magazine and a cute old lady's handwritten signature. However, these submissions have already netted me something more than just rejection--and I haven't heard back from any of them yet.

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer, editor of Poet's Market, hosts a poetry writing prompt on his Poetic Asides blog. Last Wednesday I posted a poem, and, while this isn't technically a submission (the blog isn't a publication) it did help me in one very specific way:


Other poets--some published, some not--were able to read and comment on my poetry. They all said good things (I was new, I'm sure the critiques will come later), but they built up my self-confidence. Two days later Brewer hosted a Poetic Form Challenge, this one with the chance of publication in Writer's Digest magazine. The poetic form was a Tritina--a three stanza poem consisting of three end words that cycle through three tercets in a ABC, CAB, BCA pattern with a tenth line that uses all three words in any order. I posted two and have received great comments so far. My second tritina really pushed the form because I my three end words were can, wind, and lashes, but I used words like pecan, unwind, and eyelashes.

Anyway, head over to Poetic Asides and enter the competition today. It's a fun way to submit poetry, and it will build your self-esteem.

Good luck!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finally, the Adoption

After many years of waiting (two for us, seven for her), our daughter Olivia is finally being officially adopted soon. I cannot express how excited I am about this event, or even the joy and peace it brings to my family. In honor of this tremendous, inexpressibly wonderful day, I would like to share an original short story written by my daughter Olivia.

"Little Penguin" 

By Olivia DeRossett

Little Penguin hatched out of the egg. Little Penguin got lost from his father. He saw a bird and a seal. Little Penguin was found, and he became an Emperor. 

In many ways, I think this may be autobiographical. I love her writing. I see so much potential in it. The bird and the seal part--that's what makes a good story, all the little pieces.

I love this girl so very much. And in her honor, I'd like to post a poem about the first time I met my little girl.

"When I Got a Life"

Incredible moments happen in
parking lots.
Cold, rainy,
I met my daughter for the first time
When she was five.
So sweet, so gullible, smart, and new
To me.
Where did she come from, this
Will o’ the wisp light
This changling child, this
Kind of kid?
The moment she entered I smiled.
She stepped out of the car
She smiled at my wife
Her first words spoken were
“When did you get a life?”

                (The answer, it seems,
     was right about then.) 

Response to Yesterday's Poem

I didn't mean to write this, really, but poetry breeds poetry in a way. In fact, there is an entire magazine dedicated to referring poetry from other materials. After posting the poem I posted yesterday, this came to me. Maybe you'll enjoy it, too.


I see the way you look at me
Swinging a left hook at me
With your eyes.
What does he know of addiction?
And admitting in this statement
That you know I know of addiction--
Which means that you, too, know of it.
In your accusation,
A confession.
It's not that you wonder how I know;
It's that my admittance made you admit.
You're uncomfortable,
I am too.
(we're both human)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coming Clean, A Poem About Addiction

I'm pretty sure we're an addicted culture. We're addicted to video games, food, pornography, drugs, gossip, the internet, magazines, you name it. How many people are comfortable sitting at home, alone, in silence? No, we need things. It's more than a need, though. In a way, it's a craving.

As I mentioned yesterday, I am trying to take addiction head-on in a new book of poetry that I'm working on. My goal is to finish it sometime this year. In a way, I'm just trying to make sense of my life, and who I am. But, really, who isn't trying to do that?

I'm leery about posting my poems online. It's weird for me, because I don't usually share them with everyone, or anyone. But, the poem is here. I hope it shows the destructive nature of our addictive lifestyles. Feel free to leave a comment or two to let me know what you think about it. Hope you enjoy!

“Coming Clean”

He clenched a ball of fire in his fist
And ate it like you would eat an apple
Bite by bite.
He wished it didn’t burn so much
But what can you do when you’re addicted to the
Dancing flames.

His mother caught him licking live coals
When he was fourteen.
Ever since then
He’d been afraid of losing his tongue.
So now he just inhales the heat
And tastes the flames.
But still, he misses the feel
Of the coals
Searing his tongue.

Maybe just one last ember. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Blog, New Design, New Book

So I redesigned this blog, renamed it, and give it a general, over-all face lift.


Mainly because I realized the old one wasn't working. It wasn't who I am, or even who I want to be. It was all too writer-ish. I want to be a writer so bad that I often make the number one writer's amateur mistake (and I can already see my wife smiling): I focus more on wanting to be a writer than I do on actual writing! Can't be a writer if you don't write.

The problem was that my old blog was created to be a "writer's springboard". Phooey. No one in my life cares or wants to have a weekly writing prompt. What do they care about? My stories. My family. My life. That's where the entertainment lies.

There is only one problem, as my wife points out: I tend to repeat the same stories. In fact, sometimes the exact same stories happen twice. I watch myself (in an almost out-of-body experience) telling some friends a story about my life growing up, and, at the same time, I watch myself realizing that the very same incidents are happening to my own children now. History repeats itself, and so, it seems, do my stories.

I'm working on a writing project now. My fantasy book series is going on the backburner for now. No one wanted it right now (or at least, they didn't want it from me.) All I hear about in the writing world is platform, platform, platform, so I'm starting to build my writing audience. And with this realization came another quick on its heels: I already have an audience. And they want to hear my stories. Even if they repeat themselves.

The writing project I'm working on now is not an easy one. It covers my lifelong battle with a hereditary quick temper that often gets me into trouble and an addiction that has tried for over a decade to eat up my soul. I don't like confessing fault or guilt--I don't like being vulnerable. So this is not an easy book to write. I am approaching it through poetry and some original drawings (if I can make them good enough to ever publish).

So hold on tight, ever-watchers. There are plenty more stories where the first ones came from. And if I do ever run out, well, some stories will have to repeat themselves.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Craziest Day of the Year So Far

So I woke up this morning having one of those days. You know, those days where troubles fall like Dominoes stacked up against you? It was cold here last night, the first truly winter night in weeks. I woke up around 5 am, freezing. The heater had gone out. The house was sitting at 55 degrees, and falling quickly. So I'm up and calling the gas company, and the church that owns our house, trying to figure out a way to heat this bad boy up.

I hop in my car to head to work, already a little bit late. My truck won't crank. The battery froze out in the middle of the night as well. Furthermore, the way our two cars are parked under our two-car awning, my jumper-cable couldn't reach from one battery to the next. So I push and wheel and drag until I can jump off my truck to get to work. My principal is covering my first period class for me.

I arrive at work twenty minutes into first period. My principal leave. Moments later our new assistant principal (you know, the one you know the least, and probably the one you'd really want to impress with a stellar lesson so that his first impression of your teaching is...WOW!), well, he walks in to do an observation on me. There I am, thirty minutes into class, still wearing my coat and trying to get my laptop up and take roll.

That's pretty much the extent of the bad stuff, although I did forget that my truck battery was shot during the course of the day. Dealing with all the hullabaloo of getting the heater back in working order (should be fixed by Thursday), I'd forgotten that little tidbit of the morning. So, it's about 4:15 and I hop in my truck to leave, only to find it dead once again. Luckily, there was one teacher left on my hall and he gratefully jumped me off.

That jump took me to the O'Reilly's in town. Sure enough, bad battery. Along with about five other customers who woke to the same issue.

Then, something that I can only describe as miraculous occurred.

In the auto-parts store, I ran into one of my former students and her son. I'll spare you all the details, but she'd come in with a gift card intended to purchase her a new battery. The shop checked her battery, and told her that she only needed to clean her terminals and the battery should work just fine. And her alternator checked out, too.

So she left me that $80 gift card. Gratis. Said I needed it more than she did. She, at least, had heat tonight.

I'm tempted to cry coincidence. I'm tempted to say "ain't that somethin'!" But two days ago I spoke with my pastor about recognizing God when he shows up in your life. And there was my former student blessing me in a way far beyond anything I'd imagined would happen on this crappiest of days.

I swear I hate teaching sometimes. And sometimes, sitting here on my school-issued laptop, huddling by a portable ceramic heater under layers of blankets, I just can't imagine a better profession.