Last night, I hosted my final Community Poetry Night as Cupertino Poet Laureate. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to celebrate creativity with an amazing community.
What a true gift I have received from all of you. Thank you.
If you weren’t able to join us last night, you missed a beautiful gathering of community members, poets, and poetry supporters. Like my heart, the room was full.
Standing-room only is a wonderful problem to have at any poetry event!
I began the evening with a discussion of the poetry of winter and the holidays, and we were then treated to the soulful works of our invited readers and the poems of community members who shared during open mic.
If you took pictures, please share them with me! As the person at the front of the room, I rarely get the opportunity to snap photos of my events!
I left the event on a true poet’s high, excited for the new season that’s about to arrive. Those who shared their work provided me with inspiration and food for contemplation. I left with the message to be on the lookout for poetry in unexpected places this winter and holiday.
I will miss serving as Poet Laureate. But my work in the community is not over. I will celebrate creativity and the deep well of creative genius that resides in us all with my continued work teaching and coaching in the community.
PS — If you love poetry and the Cupertino community, consider applying to be the next Cupertino Poet Laureate! Applications are due January 10, 2020, by 5pm. Email me for more information or click here to apply!
When it comes to freelancing, anything that saves you time and energy is like money in your pocket. To help out my fellow freelancers, I’ve put together a list of several helpful resources. As I collect more, I’ll add them to the list (click here for the permanent page). If you have any others, send them my way and I’ll investigate!
Links to Useful Templates
From Requests for Quotes to Invoices to Timesheets, there’s no sense reinventing the wheel. Check out these free templates to save you time and money!
It can be challenging to know what to charge clients (or what to pay if you’re hiring a freelancer!). No two freelancers are exactly the same, and rates vary greatly based on experience, education, and geographic location. Check out these resources to help you set rates for various projects and clients.
How Much Should I Charge – an extensive chart published by Writers Market with a wide variety of freelance projects for writers and designers and range of charges displayed by hour, page, and project with notes for experience level
So how can I write a post that utilizes Facebook and the linchpin? Moreover, Facebook and poetry don’t seem like two entities that go together – at least not from the perspective of using Facebook to write poetry. What gives?
Simple. I’m writing this post because I am a fan of taking advantage of whatever works to generate creativity and get poems (or fiction or any writing ideas) out of the ether and onto the page. And I promise you – if you fully execute this technique, you will end up with a poem. Or character. Or beginning of a story… you get the picture.
So what is this Facebook writing technique?
It’s fun, it’s easy, and you can do it even if you don’t have a Facebook account. Trust me.
First, scroll through your list of FB friends until you come across names from your childhood of people you haven’t really kept up with over the years. If you don’t have any FB friends that reach back that far, settle for FB friends that you are merely acquaintances with in real life – the point is to find people you know, but people you don’t know well. You want to be surprised.
Second, visit the pages of these FB friends and look at their most recent post. Ideally, the first page you visit is the one you’ll use, but if it really doesn’t work move down the list.
Third, using whatever this person posted as your inspiration, brainstorm words and phrases that immediately come to mind. Try to incorporate sensory language if possible, but stay true to whatever pops into your head.
Fourth, write a poem (or story) inspired by the FB friend’s post and your brainstormed list. It can be a poem in any form or style. It can be a flash fiction. A short story. It can even be the start of your own memoir. The point is to WRITE.
If you’re not on Facebook, you can search old emails, greeting cards and letters, or use another social media source (like Twitter or Google+) to accomplish the same result.
I first thought of this technique when I randomly clicked on the Facebook page of a childhood friend with whom I had not had any contact other than to accept her Friend request years ago. I was shocked and saddened to learn that she had just lost her father. Her most recent post happened to be picture from her childhood of her at about preschool age sitting on her dad’s lap. They were reading a book together, and the caption read, “Missing my dad today.” The photo was grainy and the clothes were standard late seventies/early eighties plaid. Her dad was sporting some seriously impressive sideburns, and my friend’s cheeks were bright red, the way kids’ cheeks get after playing outside in the snow.
I was overcome with emotion and wonder, so I started writing down ideas and words that popped into my head as I gazed at the picture. And those words evolved into a poem.
If you give it a try, let me know! I’d love to hear if it works for you. And if you have other Facebook-inspired writing ideas, please share!
Maybe you’ve been lucky and never drawn a blank when sitting down to write. But if you’re like me, you’ve sat. And sat. And looked up prompts. And doodled. And refreshed your coffee. Or tea. Or water. Or whiskey. You’ve told yourself, “Go!” then stared numbly at the screen. So you surfed the net, checked and deleted email. Answered the phone. Did the dishes. Dreamed up fanciful and creative menus for your family that you’ll never make. And decided to go to bed early (or late).
And promised yourself that tomorrow you’ll be able to get something down.
If this is sounding a little too familiar, I have atrick that helps when you find yourself thinking, “I have nothing to write about.” I’m going to describe it as it relates to poetry, but it could be used with any genre. I have found that when I’m stuck with nothing for my fiction, writing poetry can help shake things loose.
Okay, ready for the trick? Here it is:
Write the opposite.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “What? This gal has really lost it. Write the opposite of what?!”
Let me explain…
Take a poem – any poem. It can be one you’ve written, it can be a classic, it can be one you love, or one you hate. Go through it line by line and write the opposite of whatever the sentiment is in that line.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both ….
To write the opposite, I could do something like this:
In the purpled woods, two roads collided and glad was I to find the path so clear ….
That is an off-the-cuff example that could use (a lot) of work. Regardless, it demonstrates what I mean. At least I hope it does!
To complete the exercise, I would go through every line. If all of sudden in the middle of this task something sparks and I’m inspired, I might drop the exercise and run with my new idea. If not, I’d keep at it, line by line. Then revise and make changes, look for better words and better imagery.
And at the end of the day, I’ll have a poem. At the very least, I’ll have made good use of the day and worked my creative muscles. Writing the opposite it harder than it sounds. It forces you to be creative, look for ways to describe emotions, places, and people. And it can result in some phenomenal poetry!
Don’t believe me? Give it a try! And let me know what you think.
I’m curious – what do you do when the muse is silent? I’d love to hear other tips and tricks!
One of the best things about being writers is that we get to play with reality. When we craft fiction, poetry, and even creative nonfiction, we can bend and twist the boundaries of our identity, the identities of our speakers and characters, and even the world around us.
Of course, there are varying degrees of reality contorting. One could tell the first-person account of the life of a three-winged dragon in the fictional land of Ingatek, or one could write a poem that relays a factual account of an observation but simply tell it from the perspective of a different person.
“Playing” like this can be fun, exciting, and it works the creative muscle in our writers’ brains that makes us stronger writers. Even hardcore nonfiction writers can benefit from the cross training taking on different perspectives provides. Being able to see the world and events from another’s point of view forces us to notice different details, make different interpretations of events and relationships, and possibly reconsider our own place in the scheme of things.
So today I offer a simple writing exercise in perspective. Use it as a quick warm-up for the day’s writing, or take it and run with it as far as your imagination (and time) will allow.
Exercise:Consider a locale you frequently visit – it could be the library, a bar or restaurant, a park, or even a neighbor’s house. Create a list of at least twenty-five descriptive words associated with that particular place. Write fast and try to complete your list in 3 minutes or less. Using your list, write a short story or poem about being in the place from the perspective of a young child. Keep in mind appropriate vocabulary, how children relate to adults and other children, how a child’s breadth of experience (or lack thereof) might impact what/how he or she experiences in the same place as adult. And have fun with it! You never know where a writing exercise might lead…
Do you often write from different perspectives? Is there a specific process you use when “getting into character” that helps your writing feel more authentic? I’d love to hear about your method in the comments! And if you try the writing exercise, let me know how it goes!
Did I mention I have four kids and husband? And am hosting Thanksgiving?
So with this busy schedule, I need all the help I can get … and that extends to writing motivation. Little things can get me pumped when I’m feeling intimidated, so this morning instead of focusing on the writing, I thought I’d focus on something easier:
Creating a book cover for NaNoWriMo.
I have no plan when it comes to NaNo. I don’t plot – as much as I want to be the writer with the outline, character sketches, and full-blown plan for novel writing, I am a pantser through and through. In fact, I don’t have a clue as to what this year’s NaNo book will be about. Or at least I didn’t until I started making a cover. It’s one of my tricks up my very tricksy sleeves. I force myself to complete the first step, and the rest follows. Eventually. And if I change my mind or the Muses gift me with another story? I’ll change the cover. Easy as Thanksgiving pie.
So for anyone who would like a nudge in the pants(er), here is a quick and painless way to create a NaNoWriMo book cover to display with pride (or any other emotion you choose) on your dashboard…
Canva is a free, online site that comes fully loaded with easy-to-use tools that make it possible for everyone (well, maybe not my mother but she still can’t figure out her email) to design graphics, presentations, social media bling, headers, buttons, and yes, NaNo book covers. For free. Just register with your email address and you’re good to go!
(2) From your Canva dashboard, click “Use custom dimensions” and enter 230 x 300 pixels. It will look something like this:
You’ll then end up on the layout page with a blank slate, like this:
(3) From here, you can get as creative as you’d like OR keep it as simple as you like.
Simple cover – For a crisp, clean cover, simply add a background color and lettering, like so:
All I did here was select existing text from the left sidebar and edit it. For the author’s name, I used “Add a little bit of body text.” You can change the colors, size, etc., by simply selecting the element. Playing around and experimenting is the best way to find what you like.
Fancier cover – Or add photos (choose from free stock photos, pay $1 to use protected images, or upload your own photos), graphics, fancy fonts from your personal library, and other elements. Here’s an example using a free stock photo:
I selected “Elements” from the left menu bar, picked “Free photos,” then entered “train” in the search box. To make the photo fit the cover, I dragged the corners until the image filled the 230 x 300 pixel template. Then I added text as above.
(4) After you’ve played around and are happy with the cover, click “Download” from the top menu bar and save the file as a JPG or PNG, the forms compatible with NaNo.
(5) Finally, all that’s left is to visit your author dashboard over at NaNoWriMo and upload the cover!
I promise this is a very easy process and was actually faster than the time it took to write this post! I created my 2018 NaNoWriMo (working) cover this morning. And while I didn’t know going in what my book would be about, the creative process got the juices flowing and an idea sparked. Now let’s hope it catches!
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Let me know if you create a NaNoWriMo cover! And if you have a different technique or use different software, please feel free to share in the comment section!
Forty years ago, Cupertino joined into a partnership with a city 5,317 miles away – Toyokawa, Japan. Toyokawa become Cupertino’s second Sister City, and the partnership has blossomed over the past four decades. Perhaps the most widely celebrated aspect of the Cupertino-Toyokawa friendship is the annual Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival. And another integral piece is the annual student delegation exchange. “In September 1979 the first annual student delegation of six middle school students from Toyokawa visited Cupertino. The first delegation of eight Cupertino middle school students visited Toyokawa in 1983. Over the years, the size of delegations has grown. The delegations of today are typically 12-16 students plus chaperones. Each autumn, a delegation of middle school students from Toyokawa travel to Cupertino with their adult chaperones” (Cupertino-Toyokawa Sister City website).
On the morning of July 11, 2018, this forty-year relationship was celebrated and commemorated with the unveiling of a new monument outside Cupertino City Hall after the recitation of a celebratory poem written and performed by the current Cupertino Poet Laureate, Kaecey McCormick. Representatives from both Cupertino City and Toyokawa City governments were in attendance, as was the Japanese General Consulate from San Francisco and numerous other delegates from Toyokawa who all shared remarks and commentary on the special occasion. A video recording of the hour-long ceremony can be watched here.