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More than just a style guide, this book discusses how creative writers can use punctuation for artistic effect. Lukeman, a literary agent and author of bestselling writing manuals, explores such questions as how dashes enhance Emily Dickinson's poems, or how Melville used semicolons to convey tension in Moby-Dick. Includes writing exercises.
This readable guide to plotting a work of fiction helps you identify the human need that your story promises to fulfill, and the actions that will advance that goal. Johnson, a script doctor, uses examples from action movies like Rocky and The Hunt for Red October to illustrate the different elements of a story. Whereas many writing manuals focus on the micro-elements of the scene (dialogue, setting, characterization), Johnson looks at the macro-elements, the "why" rather than the "how", in a way that will help any novelist wondering which scenes to include in her next draft.
A small book full of wisdom about overcoming the psychological barriers that can prevent us from taking our own work seriously.
A witty look at the secret pleasures of writing, with wise advice for a writer's hardest tasks.
BookBaby offers self-published authors a full range of services from editing and design to printing, distribution, and marketing. BookBaby is a co-sponsor of our North Street Book Prize—that's how much we trust them! We earn a modest commision when you buy from them using our affiliate link.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson's "How to Do It Frugally" website is the portal for her award-winning series of books on marketing, editing, and book proposals. Her guides for indie authors have received honors from USA Book News, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the Global Ebook Awards, and others. The Frugal Book Promoter and How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically feature strategies for free or low-cost book publicity. The Frugal Editor and Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers will ensure that your self-published book or manuscript submission looks professional. The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Book in 30 Minutes or Less covers pitching your manuscript to editors and agents.
These magnificent, lavishly-printed works show the power and subtlety of wise use of design, color, typography, layouts, pictures and illustrations. Don't just make a book, make a treasure.
Successful slam poet offers creative ways to support a career as a full-time writer. Also includes advice about how to give good readings, write effective press releases, and other practical skills.
Published by Fairfield University's MFA Program, this multi-genre writer's guide features essays from numerous published authors about their postgraduate career paths. The companion website accepts submissions of more articles on this topic.
By Fauzia Burke. If you're getting lost among all the options for marketing your book, this quick and well-organized guide will give you a helpful overview of the available tools and why to use them (or not). Especially useful are the opening chapters about deciding on your goals and dreams, because you can't figure out the what till you know the why. The advice seems most on-target for writers of commercial nonfiction (business books, self-help, cookbooks), but fiction writers will also find good tips here. Use this book to plan your overall strategy, then supplement it with more detailed guides on the specific topics that are relevant to you. Burke is an online publicist who has worked with bestselling authors such as Deepak Chopra and Sue Grafton.
Stumps pierce a white blanket of snow—winter
in burley country. Three hundred stalks
per row stake and trap
history, which hangs over the country
side before falling
to earth. Autumn draws longer shadows
where a faded tinderbox barn looms—
its broad sides converge into sheet
metal lances aimed at an apathetic sun.
Inside its walls, a year's labor cures,
ten stalks per hickory stick each speared
at the base. As winter nears
the green blood dries and gravity
claims every leaf. Tar gathers dust
from a dark dirt floor. The farmer pulls
a leaf from its stalk, holds it first
to his nose, then to the fading light.
Flaccid. The browning hangs over knuckles
like skin. Dust and tar cover hands
that won't come clean
'til right before planting season.
Time for stripping, bundling leaves. Soon
another year's work auctioned—the weed
will rest in the hands of sinners and cancer
patients. The father closes the barn door
and turns away.
Behind him thin slats of light peer
through the dead oak boards,
while in the shadows his son cups
palms around an orange tell-tale cherry—
and coughs. The boy allows smoke
filled with pitch to warm his hands.
Copyright 2012 by Allen Gray
Critique by Laura Cherry
Writing poems is often considered to be an effete, elite process, far removed from ordinary folks and "real" work. One challenge to this limited notion of poetry is the work poem, which takes as its subject the unglamorous jobs, the mucking out of the world's stables. The act of writing such a poem can be a reclaiming or celebration of labor, whether it is one's own work, the work of one's family, or work more distantly observed. Capturing some form of work in a poem, particularly manual labor, so frequently marginalized in Western culture, can mean wrestling with all sorts of contradictions.
At the same time, work is an ideal subject for a poem. Jobs often come freighted with rich lexicons of terminology that can be plundered in the service of the poem. Work requires gloriously specific objects and actions. It is vivid even when boring, and it generates stories. Work makes things happen; it makes things. The work poem just needs to open the door to those things and let them in. Allen Gray's poem, "Tar Sticks to Everything", does exactly that.
Gray's poem has an honorable lineage. Perhaps the most renowned "poet of work" is our current Poet Laureate, Philip Levine. Check out his "Fear and Fame" (from his collection What Work Is) for a masterful example of the genre. Levine is by no means alone, though. Other powerful collections dealing with physical labor include BH Fairchild's The Art of the Lathe; An Honest Answer and Hurricane Sisters, by Ginger Andrews (known as "the cleaning lady poet", though she is much more); and Max Garland's The Postal Confessions. The speaker in Susan Eisenberg's Pioneering: Poems from the Construction Site is a woman working in a traditionally male job, doing physical labor. A beautifully poignant example of work poetry is Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove (see the poems "Straw Hat" and "Dusting"), based on the lives of Dove's grandparents. And for another perspective on work poetry, see "Poems on Work and Money" on the Academy of American Poets website. In addition to what we might call blue-collar poems, there are also many poems based on the plight or good fortune of the office worker (or doctor or lawyer or investment banker), but those will remain a topic for another time.
The work poem often deals with work that is difficult, dangerous, perhaps even morally compromised, and from these conflicts grows the richness and complexity of the poem. A whole subgenre of poetry has been written on the life of the coal miner, for example. Miners are subjected to extreme danger in both a daily and a long-term way. They do work that is demanding and tedious, in the dark, for little money. Historically, they are often mistreated by their employers. Yet there is a fascination, almost a mystique, surrounding the coal-mining life and its struggles. For examples of poetry about coal mining, see Tess Gallagher's "Black Money", Philip Larkin's "The Explosion", and the book Kettle Bottom, Diane Gilliam Fisher's luminous collection of voices from the West Virginia mining wars of 1920 and 1921.
Coal mining is an interesting counterpoint to the subject of Allen Gray's poem, the equally complicated world of tobacco farming. Here is another difficult job with its own rhythms, its own way of life and its own dark side: the physical blight it brings to all it touches.
Grey gives us a beautiful example of a work poem in "Tar Sticks to Everything". The diction Gray uses to describe the materials and activities of the tobacco farm (burley, tar, hickory stick stakes, stripping and bundling leaves) conveys an easy, confident intimacy with the subject: this may not be a familiar place to us, but we sense we are in good hands.
Another thing I admire about this poem is the way Gray moves between concrete and figurative language. In the very first stanza, Gray gives us these lines:
...Three hundred stalks
per row stake and trap
history, which hangs over the country
side before falling
Replace "history" and "country/side" with details of the tobacco farm, and you still have evocative, vivid lines. As they stand, the abstractions lift the poem from the beginning to a higher level of discourse, but with ease, almost off-handedly. It takes guts to whip out such abstractions, and to use them without causing the poem to shift off-balance and grow portentous. With his casual tone, and by moving afterwards back to the actual scene, Gray pulls it off, and I'm delighted to see him do it.
In a similar move from bare fact to image, the visually evocative detail, "a faded tinderbox barn looms" is followed by the equally ominous metaphor of "sheet / metal lances aimed at an apathetic sun." The latter image is another breakthrough judgment that works to set the poem's tone. There is little kindness in this landscape, but Gray shows us the beauty in its starkness and the sadness in its danger.
The language throughout the rest of the poem is casual, conversational, describing "the farmer", who is also "the father", checking his harvest as any farmer would do. The detail that "Dust and tar cover hands / that won't come clean / 'til right before planting season" tells us that his crop is as dangerous to him as it will be to those who eventually smoke it.
Gray does so many things right in this poem that I don't have space to detail them all here; in particular, his restraint, and his relaxed control of both the language and the material, make the poem powerful, not overblown. The title is a perfect example of this control, with its plain language but bold statement: this title conveys the poem's important points and establishes its voice. In telling us that "tar sticks to everything", it implicates all of us in the tobacco-growing paradox: the farmer must grow his crop to make a living. Smokers are compelled to buy it. Farm subsidies allow the cycle to continue. Both the farmer's family and the crop's consumers are physically damaged. Morally, the situation is complex and nuanced; from most perspectives, it is tragic.
In only a few places does Gray wobble over the line of restraint into overstatement: the farmer's reflection that "the weed / will rest in the hands of sinners and cancer / patients" seems to cross that line to me. It would be more compelling, and more in keeping with the tone of the poem, to leave at least the cancer patients, and perhaps the sinners as well, merely implied.
More subtly, the dash just after the wonderful image in which "his son cups / palms around an orange tell-tale cherry" gives too much dramatic weight to the subsequent ominous cough. The reader gets the point, that the son himself is doomed by his father's livelihood, and does not need the dash to establish a pause. The light touch Gray uses in the rest of the poem would work well here to get the greatest possible power from these lines.
Finally, a small quibble with a detail that this particular reader finds distracting and confusing: the poem begins with "winter / in burley country" and then moves backward to "autumn", which is then reinforced by the phrase "as winter nears." A simple fix to establish temporal continuity would be to change "winter" in the first line to "fall". That quintessentially American word for the season also puts us in the right spot, place-wise, for all that follows in this quiet and remarkable poem.
Where might a poem like "Tar Sticks to Everything" be submitted? The following contests may be of interest:
New Letters Literary Awards
Postmark Deadline: January 15, 2021
Prestigious, competitive prize series from the University of Missouri-Kansas City literary journal gives $1,000 and publication for poetry and short fiction manuscripts
Beacon Street Prize
Entries must be received by May 30
Redivider, a literary journal based at Emerson College in Boston, MA, gives $500 apiece for unpublished poems and short stories; online entries accepted
Entries must be received by May 31
High-profile British contest awards prizes up to 5,000 pounds for poetry and short stories, 1,000 pounds for flash fiction; online entries accepted
Guy Owen Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: June 15
Long-running award includes $1,000 and publication in Southern Poetry Review, a fine journal that favors rich, imagistic work
Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition
Entries must be received by July 3
Contest sponsored by UK-based poetry festival awards 1,000 pounds (cash prize added in 2012) and free tuition to a writing course at the Ty Newydd Creative Writing Center, North Wales; no simultaneous submissions
This poem and critique appeared in the May 2012 issue of Winning Writers Newsletter (subscribe free).
Over 200 inventive exercises to help you break out of old patterns and discover new things about your characters. Kiteley uses word limits rather than time limits to provide discipline and focus. The prompts are grouped according to the technique they are designed to develop (timing, narrative voice, and so forth) and include brief discussions of why they work.
By Jane Friedman. The expert publishing blogger teaches writers about the economics of their industry in this book from the University of Chicago Press. The book is intended to help writers craft a realistic plan for earning money from their work.
Create work that meets today's professional standards with guidance on grammar, usage, formats, design and sourcing (including electronic and online sources).
Edited by Diane Lockward. This anthology, suitable for both individual and classroom use, features craft essays and exercises for poets of all skill levels. It includes model poems and prompts, writing tips, and interviews contributed by 56 well-known American poets, including 13 former and current state Poets Laureate. Volume II is also available. Lockward is the editor of Terrapin Books, an independent publisher of poetry collections and anthologies.
Make your moods work for you, judge if and when to quit your day job, get along with the others in your home and tap the power of positive and negative thinking.
A witty and practical guide to finding the best contests for your work. Topics include identifying the judges' tastes, "popular" versus "literary" styles of writing, preparing a professional-looking manuscript and avoiding scam contests. Though his examples are drawn from fiction, poets will also find this guide indispensable. John Reid is the founder of the Tom Howard poetry and prose contests, now sponsored by Winning Writers.
Edited by Robert Lee Brewer, this annual directory profiles 1,000+ reputable agents with their specialties and requirements. Also included are articles on a writing book proposal and synopsis.
Everything you need to know about pitching your novel to agents and editors. Includes advice on selecting an agent, plus how to write query letters, synopses and book proposals, with many helpful samples of each.