Friday, December 21, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bookends By Any Other Name

     Two months ago I browsed in a Goodwill Store, and found a fabulous bookend set (see photo). The heavy ceramic sculpture, felted on its base, depicts a red book with double gold bars on each end. The side edges depict pages done in relief. On top of the book rests scrolled parchment kept from rolling up by a posted fountain pen, nib exposed as if someone had just finished writing its inscription. The word "library"is etched in script with a message I can't discern except that "poet" is the last word. What a find. (If you've read my Blog of 12/7/2012––Barrel to Nib to Paper, you'll know my fascination with fountain pens.) I scooped them up and returned home for their new designated job, and in a place where I could see and admire them. 

     Admire them, I do. With this addition, my collection of bookend sets have swelled to three. All of them bring order to the book and file chaos that reigns in my writing room. In time, I'm sure there will be others. 
    Wikipedia defines a bookend as "an object that is designed to buttress, or support, an upright row of books. It is placed on either end to prevent books from falling over...."  
      Just Bookends notes that, "As libraries and collectors formed categorical systems for arranging books neatly horizontal on an otherwise unfilled shelf. Bookends of sufficient weight would keep the shelved books safely in place and reduce book avalanches, making vertical book storage and the use of bookends a definite improvement over horizontally stacked book mountains."

      The Internet being the marvel it is, provides links to several sites of bookend production and sales. Take a peak at, ModCloth, Barnes & Noble, even etsy has bookends of interest. Or browse vintage bookends once made by the Ronson lighter company (
     Bookends are wonderful gifts at Christmas or other happy occasions for your writer friends––even yourself. Assigned them their primary job, they'll do it well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Inflated Nouns, Verbs, Phrases

Hurriedly driving home across a busy, congested town in a poor, sulky, exhausted spirit of fractured good wishes for bad drivers all around me, I wondered disdainfully why I never dressed up my pathetic, gray Mazda with a chintzy red-velveteen bow on its dented hood. I sarcastically thought that as I looked squint-eyed into my cracked rear-view mirror, and saw just that same tacky, pedestrian question played back. I ruefully smiled. Quirky Pandora Radio played common, folksy Bing Crosby Christmas numbers, and the blinding red sun sat on the cloudless horizon cast in a crimson fireball glow that blinded me relentlessly. Good will and peace to everyone, I sardonically thought, and may the new year bring you peace, too.

Now take a glimpse into the real me!

Driving home from across town in a spirit of good wishes for drivers around me, I wondered why I never dressed my Mazda with a bow on its hood. I looked into my rear-view mirror, and saw the question played back. I smiled. Pandora Radio played Bing Crosby, and the sun sat on the horizon cast in a crimson glow. Good will and peace to everyone, and may the new year bring you peace. 

You be the judge of describers––adverbs, adjectives, and their respective phrases––for your writing new year. Think about its message, and what it says about YOU, the writer? Or is this intended? And if so, could you have achieved the same point with less?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Marginalia: marginal notes or embellishments in a book. Annotation fits the bill, too. In any event, I mark the margins of my books with lines, words, asterisks and stars. Petite asides in the margins of the books I read is meaningful, especially since I reread books in my library. Many times when I reopen pages, I look first for my cryptic messages, or the definitions to new-found words, or straight-lined edges of a section to remind me something here is important. Finding them is like coming across sweet morsels strewn on a wooded path.

In Chapter Two of The Little Guide To Your Well-Read Life, Steve Leveen reasons why readers should mark up their books. Leveen described "those who write in books as Footprint Leavers and those who do not as Preservationists."Important writers, even mathematicians, have contributed significantly to the role of marginalia, he notes. For examples, visit

Local libraries frown on personalizing reading material, and in deciding which donated books to shelve in their collections––annotated copies will, most likely, go elsewhere. You need to know this if you intend to donate books filled with notes and comments. On the other hand, consider the largesse of meaning those scribbles and notes might hold for an unassuming reader––cryptic thoughts, feelings, and opinions, or Aha! moments waiting to be discovered by a fresh eye.

One verse from Billy Collins's poem, sizes it up:
      We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
      and reached for a pen if only to show
      we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
      we pressed a thought into the wayside,
      planted an impression along the verge.

Consider, also, Harvard University's open collections' program on reading and marginalia:
Marginalia provide unique records of the reader’s experience. Offering insights into how and why a reader reads, marginalia take many forms. These range from glosses on difficult words or passages and lengthier notes on the meaning of a text, to illustrations and personal marks used to denote passages of particular interest. While marginalia are often highly systematic, they are also as individualistic: every reader’s engagement with a text is unique. Marginalia shed light on the mental, emotional, and intellectual process of reading, as well as changing historical patterns of reading practice.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Barrel to Nib to Paper

     Some people say they cannot read my handwriting. A few have suggested it's my writing instrument. With pride, I tell them I was weaned on fountain pens and ink wells, was  trained in the loops and slants of the Palmer Method, and always use a fountain pen with its cap posted. I'm not sure what the issue is with the writing, because I can read it. I love my handwriting. In fact, I think it's expressive.

     My pen––well, there are several, a good several, housed atop a bookcase. Each has a personality, a particular feel, a memory attached. Some I use for special occasions, like personal notes or Holiday greetings. I've two red-barreled pens I use with Visconti red inks for marking revisions on my poems and stories. Quite effective. Other colors have a function that match the pen they flow through: brown Sheaffer ink is used in the brown Sheaffer for draft writing. Two blue Pelikan pens use blue Pelikan ink. They're the daily work horses. Two Parkers rely on Parker black for a range of jobs, and a green Parker Duofold uses emerald ink for Holiday cards. The yellow Waterman pictured here, uses Waterman's black. No one is special. Each is special.

     My Composition Books and journals are filled with fragmented thoughts and ideas, character names or sketches, overheard conversations, future titles, +++ and all in different colored inks. Different pens, too. There's a lot to consider when you write with a fountain pen and free-flowing ink. For instance, the feel and absorbency of the paper, the size nib, and whether the pen feels good in my hand at the time.

     Like everyone, I succumbed to the vogue and ease of ballpoints, rollerballs, and gels. Most are disposable. Not so a fountain pen, which can have a life of more than one hundred years. A ballpoint and its siblings do not and cannot give the feel and comfort of a fountain pen, and the effortless writing that comes from using one. A fountain pen trains you to write with a light pressure, and is much less tiring than the other pen types.

     "The more you use a fountain pen," my Dad used to say, "the better and smoother it will be to write with." I am attached to my fountain pens and the expressiveness they lend to my writing. I returned to them after a hiatus of several years, but will never part with their company again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gifts I Hope To Get

I'm not looking for glitz under this year's Christmas Tree, nor anything of epic proportions. The items on my merry-little-wonders list are writing inspired and locally available. If, like me, you're a poem writer or storyteller, perhaps you'll wish for similar gifted boxes or stocking stuffers.

Renewal subscriptions to this year's favorite drops in my mailbox:
Glimmer Train, One Story, Poets & Writers, and The Sun.
Gift certificates would be appreciated. Even though statistics reveal recipients do not cash in on them, that shouldn't be a worrisome concern––yours truly will make quick use of them. SO: Apple Store (upgrades, iTunes, a gadget or two), Barnes & Noble (books), Office Depot (paper, printer, or writing supplies), Panera Bread and/or Starbucks (to share snacks with my poem pal, Maxie Steer).

The perfect extra something, the gift that would keep giving for the rest of the year––a prepaid registration to the Florida Writers Association Conference.

Last, but NOT least is Time. Beautiful, wonderful, guilt-free time to pen the words, thoughts, and feelings in my head the whole year long, and being in that moment.

There you have it. I'll keep you posted––no pun intended. Smile,

Friday, November 30, 2012


      It's that time of year: Tinsel, stockings, Christmas trees, snow (not here!), carols, and ++++. It's also the time (I figure it starts around Halloween) when hours, days, and weeks speed by with such intensity that I've come to believe clocks worldwide are a jumble of frenzied gears trying to make it through the year. Certainly, my noggin is that way, and it's not yet December 1.

     Take, for example, my post of November 11th. Achievement washed over me that day. Morning poems were stacking up. I felt on track with writing and revising other pieces. But like the imagined clock gear, it began to unravel.
     This last week, I have written pages of false starts filled with cross outs and strikethroughs. Okay, the Christmas storage bins needed to be brought into the house, then opened, and sorted through. Time to decorate the front of the house. No one could find the door wreath. An incomplete Christmas gift list sits on the counter. When will the tree be set in its stand? To write or not to write Christmas cards? Also, up in the air.
     Sorry––strayed for a minute, another common occurrence these days. The point is my recent writing efforts have not held my interest. Momentum drops. Pressure mounts. Words go against the grain. I cross out more than not, even give into full-blown X's through paragraphs or stanzas. I watch the clock. Time speeds along. Was that a knock at the door? I barrel out the room turning the corner on a dime. Preoccupied with a gadzillion things, I smack my foot into a heavy storage bin. Convinced I'd heard someone at the door, I hobble to open it, and found just what I needed––a box of inescapable mediocrity delivered by and to my very own frenzied mind. Oh my!!!

P. S. I fractured a toe in that "turn on the dime." Really. I did. If that can't slow down gears at this time of the year––I don't what else could. Here's the good news: It's an end-of-the-year hiatus, and I must accept it as just that. I am a writer. A new year––and a new clock––dawns.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Creative Jump-Start

In addition to my blog earlier this month (Morning Poems), I've another jump-start for the imagination to recommend. (November/December 2012) features The First Line in their "Standout Markets" by Tiffany Luckey. In this issue, Ms. Luckey notes:

"Every story in an issue begins with the same sentence. Although these first lines are identical, the individual stories are unique: Each possesses distinctive and
compelling plotlines, characters and, of course, endings."

It's enticing to me and I will certainly go to to gather more information for first lines and submission deadlines. I hope you will, too.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Culling Files

Friday, November 23, 2012

Enough of this, I thought as I scrolled through my computer files. Something had to give, and so for the last three weeks (one day a week) I've been culling or purging drafts of stories, poems, and essays. Each of them got started with good merit and intention, then revised once, twice, some more than that. In fact, a few had so many revisions that if I were to print them out, I could wallpaper my writing room.

I decided to keep the ones that ignited a spark as I reread them, and make them a priority for finalization in the upcoming year. I'll do my best to salvage what I can before I part with those. Other snippets of prose and poem have already knitted themselves into something new. A larger plan hangs over those early word attempts, and if you could see me now, you'd know I was smiling. They will go somewhere; they will become something, and if it all leads to thinking just can't make them work, I'll have to double-ax them. Always a tough thing to let go, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Morning Poems

Peggy Miller, an editor with The Comstock Review and a faculty member at this year's (2012) Florida Writers Association Conference, recommends daily morning poems. "Cultivate a cooperative relationship with your imagination," she advised. Creating this ritual builds writing confidence and creativity, and because these poems are meant to be thumbnail sketches, they provide fodder for more polished poems later.

So I've been at it, and have since captured 17 days of three-to-eight line poems using found words or snippets of thought at the beginning of my day. For the morning, it's enough to get the juices pumping––jamies and all. I open my notebook, enter the date on a fresh page, and set a word or two down. It's amazing. Stream of consciousness takes over, I write fast, and don't worry about structure or mechanics. That'll come later. I shut the book until the next day.

This exercise proves to me that by merely coming to the morning table––pencil and notebook in hand––and writing for a few minutes can be pretty satisfying in the short run. I know it'll be rewarding for the longer run. And part of that reward will be the cooperative relationship I've built with my imagination.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Every writer needs to win

A winning basket of writing journals, how-to's, A Cup of Comfort for Writers, highlighters, sharpies, bookplates, mini-compo book tabs, pencils, pens, paper clips/binders, Post-it notes––is what I hope to win!