Flash Fiction Contest Announced

The January Flash Fiction contest has been announced over at Devin O’Branagan’s writing blog. This month’s challenge is to write about disturbing news from a fortune teller … in under 1,000 words. Check it out and enter – the rules are posted at the link I included.

I’ve found flash fiction to be a great exercise for when I hit a slump in my writing. I know I do a lot of poetry on this blog, but short stories are where my heart really lies. Unfortunately, I don’t get struck with the lightning bolt quite as often. But a challenge issued for a flash fiction contest can usually do the trick for getting inspired quickly. And the best part is that it’s only 1,000 words, so it doesn’t take quite as long for the writing, then editing, then re-editing. And then re-editing.

So check out the contest here and enter – it’s easy!


How I Write My Poems

When I write a poem for this site, I tend to have a line or two already composed in my head and then I just sit at the computer and type. I don’t do outlines or drafts for my poetrybecause I want my poems to be as authentic and gritty, bare-boned and simple as possible.

When I write a poem, I always have two other windows open on my computer. Always.

They are: http://thesaurus.com/and


Interestingly enough, I can often find the rhyme I want with the thesaurus, but I really like rhymezone. It serves its purpose — it doesn’t always give me the word I end up using, but sometimes it gives me an idea for the next line or phrase. It will provide me with a new path for the poem, which is fun.

Back to the beginning of the poem, though. Like I said before, I tend to have a line or two (or even just a word or two) composed in my head. This just comes as an epiphany of sorts at some point in the day. The catacombs idea came to be while I waited in a 4-hour line to nowhere one day. I pictured people standing in line, holding these prized possessions that we deem of such high importance, when really, it will all be gone at some point and “things” will mean nothing. So that poem is slightly dreary. My love poems are more fun to write, and I’ll sometimes get a phrase stuck in my mind and build the poem around it. A lot of times, I’ll pick up on a line from a song and write my own poem around it — that’s how Something Good was written. There’s a line in the song Ruckus by The Young International (NOT a love song, as far as I can tell),

I really think we’re onto something, and you’re gonna like the sound of it

and I just picked up that “we’re onto something” for my poem.

For my storybook owl poem, I used the song Strawberry Swing by Coldplay and imagined the book I wrote playing along with the song. In fact, I actually created a video of the book playing with the song — it’s something extra I do for my niece and nephew (and of course now they expect this “music video” for every story I write them). And one of the poems, Listless Me, Myself a Mess, from my poetry book (free download this month!) is inspired by Malchus by Concerning Lions. Songs provide great backbones for stand-alone poetry and, of course, they are poems in their own right.

What resources do you use for poetry? Ever glean from a song or story?






Writing/Publishing Resources

I took a creative writing class last year at a local college. I highly recommend taking a class – no matter what level or style of writing you practice. It was really beautiful to have a collection of like-minded people brought together. We were different in many ways, but we all had a love of words and appreciation of language.

I learned many useful and practical things in my creative writing class, but the best thing – by far – was learning about Duotrope’s Digest. Has anyone else used this? It’s a searchable database of literary magazines. It lists submission requirements, styles accepted, payment methods, etc. I’ve used it countless times to submit to just the right venue for my work. The database links to the actual magazine’s web site for further research, which I highly recommend. I’ve only used it for my short fiction work, and not for poetry (I don’t think I’m quite there yet — submitting my poetry for publication).

I don’t think I would have had my two short stories published without this database. I wouldn’t have known where to begin to look for the appropriate magazine. This is a great resource for writers. It’s as updated as possible, I think (it’s quite a large database), so just make sure to visit the web site of each magazine prior to submitting, to make sure it’s still in existence.

What writing and publishing resources do you use? Have you used Duotrope’s Digest? What did you think about it?

The Best Question to Ask

One of my favorite questions that I am constantly asking and answering is: What should I read next?

I love getting book recommendations from friends, and I love giving recommendations. A friend of mind recently found this web site: http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/


Simply enter the name of your latest favorite book or author, and then choose the closest option from the drop down list. Then, the site gives you recommendations based on… science, maybe? Magic? I’m not really sure how it works, but it really works. That’s how I found John Green (based on my love of all things written by Markus Zusak). So it really works.

According to the web site, the next authors I should check out are: Paul Hautman and Maureen Johnson. I’ve never heard of Hautman, but I checked out his web site and some blurbs of his books and they look like they’re exactly the type of of thing I love. And I have this nagging feeling that I read something by Maureen Johnson (probably a short story… in a book with a John Green short story…), so that’s also a good sign.

Any other recommendations?