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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories: What is Poetry?

What is PoetryChildren’s books are often the best way for me to learn about a new subject. When I was in college and had to do a paper on an event or person I knew nothing about, I would go to the library and check out books for children on the topic. Those books gave me the most significant parts of the subject’s story, providing a timeline and basic outline. Then I could dive into adult books with a good idea of what was most important to my research and what was unnecessary detail.

The same goes for this wonderful book on writing poetry. In What Is Poetry?: the Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems, author Michael Rosen explains the basics of poetry for tweens. As an amateur poet, I found his instruction and examples extremely helpful. Many of the techniques he writes about are ones that any poet of any age are still working to improve upon.

Mr. Rosen doesn’t choose only poetry aimed at children to illustrate his instruction. He uses works by Percy Shelley, Thomas Hardy, Robert Browning, and two passages from Shakespeare. I especially like that he included the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” passage from Macbeth. I’m not a fan of Shakespeare, but even has a high school senior suffering through the dissection of this play, I could appreciate the bone-weary cynicism in this speech.

The chapters are short but crammed with information with titles like “What Can You Do With a Poem?”, “Ways to Start a Poem”. and “Some Technical Point About Poems”. In that last chapter, the author defines many kinds of figurative language, a particular love of mine. Not only are simile and metaphor covered, but also persona and metonymy. I’d come across metonymy before but had no idea what it was. Thank you for the definition and clarification, Mr. Rosen.

He lists great prompts for sparking a poem, such as daydream, pretend your are somebody else, and pick a moment, which is what I try to capture in my poetry.

One section I found very helpful was when Mr. Rosen reprints “Snow in the Suburbs” by Thomas Hardy and then shows how to mark it so you can study it. He circles alliterative sounds, draws arrows to similar images, highlights repeated words, and links rhyming words. Now when I find a poem or even a prose passage that lifts my heart or fires my imagination, I have a way to dig deep into it and figure out why.

What books have you found helpful for writing poetry?

 

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: Spring Haiku

springw-316535_1280This month, my theme is poetry and figurative language. Here’s my haiku to celebrate the new season. IF you write a haiku, feel free to share it below in the comments.

Reaching, stretching, shoots

Push through darkness for one chance

To grasp a sunbeam.

Writing Tip — Just For Fun

Sspringw-342610_1280This quote is from the story “The Mountain”. Third graders Pat and Crazy Eddie are getting a bad case of spring fever and decide to enjoy April by climbing a mountain close to their homes in Idaho.

Pat explains that the mountain would call to him.

“Pat! Pat! Come climb me! It will be fun! And I won’t try to kill you, as I do some folks!”

On an April Saturday at the age of eight, I learned that mountains don’t always tell the truth.

Do you have a favorite quote or though about spring?

Writing Tip — Writing in Time: Holy Week as Writing Inspiration

crossw-2902861_1280The drama of Holy Week can serve as writing inspiration for any kind of story, not just one directly dealing with Easter. It can guide you in developing a character’s arc or creating plot twists. Below are the basic elements of each day.

Palm Sunday — Story begins with a celebration, when the main characters feel safe or comfortable or triumphant.

Maundy Thursday — The characters gather again. One character is sad for some reason. He or she foreshadows a tragedy.

Good Friday – A tragedy occurs.

Holy Saturday – Charcters react to tragedy.

Easter – The tragedy is turned on its head somehow, becoming the opposite of what the characters thought it was.  Because of this, most of the characters are profoundly changed for the better.

I wouldn’t have to plot my story over a week.  I could have it unfold over years if I wanted to, but I would use the the four days as described as my anchors for the action. An example of using Easter themes without directly dealing with Christianity is The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien resurrects the wizard Gandalf, and Aragorn assumes the throne of Gondor as the long-awaited king. I think it’s brilliant how Mr. Tolkien takes different parts of Jesus’s life and doles it out to more than one character.

What kind of themes from Holy Week do you see that could inspire characters or plots?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: What’s Your Favorite Poem?

picture-book-w21983812_1280April is National Poetry Month here in the U.S., so my theme is poetry and figurative language.

What’s your favorite poem? I have several, but I can’t reproduce them here. That would be mostly likely a copyright violation. So I will list titles and authors below.

 

 

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