Post by Jenny
April can be a fun, intense, month for writers, and I’m sure a number of you breathed a sigh of relief when the calendar switched to May. I felt the opposite. Not only did the month fly by at record speed, but I didn’t get much writing done. And I managed to explore just the tiniest tip of the Blogging from A to Z iceberg.
Another perennial April challenge is writing a poem a day. I didn’t do that either, because guess what? I’m kind of afraid to write a poem. Blog post, sure, no problem. Short story? Heck, yeah. Novel? Bring it on. But there’s something about a poem that intimidates me. The apparent simplicity of poetry belies its complexity. (This is the same reason I hesitate to make my own pesto or angel food cake.) Even the haiku, with its tantalizingly accessible format, is elevated to the sublime in the hands of a master.
I do appreciate great poems, however, and would like to write one someday. Ted Kooser’s book The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets is helping take the fear out of poetry for me. (Mr. Kooser is the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States and won the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry collection Delights & Shadows, so I’m in good hands.)
Like the most helpful writing advice, Kooser’s applies to all genres, not just poetry. Every page has a nugget of wisdom, but what sticks with me the most is this: do more with less. Whether it’s word count or description or sentimentality or literary devices, use only what is needed and make it impactful. “A poem,” Kooser writes, “is the invited guest of its reader.” We should all take that to heart. If your poem/story/novel is boring or poorly constructed or trite or fraught with mistakes, it will be ushered out faster than an Amway salesman and never invited in again. And no writer wants his or her work to be left shivering on the doorstep.
In honor of National Library Week, my other April discovery is Gina Sheridan’s book and blog, I Work at a Public Library, a collection of the many funny, touching, and odd things seen, heard, and, yes, smelled in a public library. It made me laugh out loud and gave me an extra appreciation for the hard-working folks at my local library.
What writing lessons did you learn in April? How do you plan to use them in the coming months?