Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Two Line Tuesday: Rafael Sabatini

A-maze-ing Laughter by Yue Minjun                                  Photo by Wee Sen Goh

He was born with a gift of laughter 
and a sense that the world was mad.

                                   – Rafael Sabatini 
                                                                            from Scaramouche

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Keith Davenport

I like this resolution
             ... though it's similar to one I had three years ago.

For 2018, instead of focusing on who I am, 
                    I'd like to find out what I'm capable of.

New Year's resolutions are a prickly subject. For lots of folks, the only acceptable resolution is not to make resolutions! Does that describe you? It's easy to understand why, when only 8% of New Year's resolutions are successful. Why set yourself up for failure?

According to one poll, the three most common resolutions for 2018 were eating healthier, getting more exercise, and saving more money. In another poll the top spot was shared by weight loss and being a better person. "Being a better person"...? What does that even mean? While most resolutions are well-meant, they're not typically well-planned. Commitment to change requires preparation, not just a fresh start and good intentions. I'm proud of the fact that I've lost 30 pounds over the last several months by eating healthier and getting more exercise, but did it come about because of a New Year's resolution? Heck no.

I happen to like resolutions, but only after I've taken stock of my life and put significant thought and effort into what my priorities are, and how I'm going to carry them out. Generalities like "being a better person" just don't cut it. I need my resolutions to be specific, reasonable, and achievable. That doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't be challenging, but with all the disappointments this world has been doling out lately, the last thing I need is to break a promise I've made to myself.

Back in November, a friend of mine—author, professor, and Huffington Post columnist Stephanie Vanderslice—asked me if I had a writing resolution for 2018. After some thought, here's what I came up with:
While I've been blessed with an active and loyal blog following, I've also become a bit too comfortable. The time has come to be more proactive with my writing career. As a resolution, I've taken my cue from "2018"—complete 2 poetry collections (zero excuses!) and submit my work at least 18 times during the year.

I think that's doable. Though I'm not going to lie, I've been more than a bit nervous about returning to blogging because it tends to soak up my writing time like a sponge. This is not the first time I've tried to make changes to the blog to allow for more personal writing and submitting. Establishing new habits is a fragile undertaking at the best of times, but this year I've also got the aforementioned new exercise routine to consider, a son heading off to college, parents who are planning to move down here, plus all the usual everyday "grown-up blah-blah" as my son used to call it. This time things feel different, though, like the stars are aligned and I'm ready for whatever comes my way. Already well into drafting my first 2018 poetry manuscript, I sure hope so. This would not be a good time to lose my mojo or momentum!

Available at Amazon.com.
My writing resolution was published Wednesday as part of a social media campaign to promote Stephanie's new book The Geek's Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir for Prose Writers (Bloomsbury Academic, December 2017). I highly recommend it—especially for beginning writers, but also for folks like me who suffer from recurring bouts of insecurity. Am I a prose writer? No, not really, but poets can also benefit from the strategies discussed.

In Stephanie's own words:

...writing life books are kind of like pep talks; we all need them once in a while to remind us of the difficulty and the importance of what we're trying to do.

This particular "pep talk" covers the nuts and bolts of what it takes to have a writing career. It includes everything from making the commitment and doing the work, to connecting with readers and finding your tribe, continuing education and making a living, and even platform building and finding an agent. Plus it has an appendix chock full of valuable resources. What I especially like is that the book is written in a way that's as warm, compassionate, and funny as it is practical, well-organized, and informative. Stephanie comes across as a friend... which she is. But even if she wasn't, she would be after reading this book! Her guidance comes from a place of honesty, integrity, nurturing, and experience, drawing from years as a Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Arkansas Writer's MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas, and from publishing fiction, nonfiction, and her regular column for the Huffington Post called "The Geek's Guide to the Writing Life."

To give you a taste, here's the opening paragraph of Chapter 1—Making the commitment:
You don't always choose writing. Sometimes writing chooses you. Sometimes it grabs you by the lapels, gets in your face, and keeps you awake at night, assuring you won't rest until you get your thoughts down, somehow. Sometimes it just feels like a constant malaise, a low-grade depression, like you're forgetting something, leaving something behind, by not writing. Sometimes it feels like a slow building up of thoughts and words until it feels as if your head, or your heart, might burst. You know you have to do something. You just don't know how or what.

Which brings me to my "one little word" for 2018—RESOLVE—as in, I resolve to find out what I am capable of.

What are you capable of?

Let's make it happen together.

The Ditty of the Month Club returns next week! Sharpen your pencils and get ready to write!

It's great to be back and making the Poetry Friday rounds again. Join Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink for this week's roundup.