This Writer’s November Debate

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With November just around the corner, this writer finds herself at a crossroads. I’m not talking about the horrific election, but rather the opportunities November affords to writers of poetry and fiction. There are two big options on the table, each with its own set of pros and cons.

Option #1: Poetic Asides (via Writer’s Digest) November Poem A Day Challenge

Pros: I’ve participated in the PAD challenge for the last three years. The prompts are challenging, original, and always push my poetry to a new level. In addition, the camaraderie among poets is amazing and very uplifting.

Cons: I’m already writing a poem a day for National Haiku Writing Month. While February is technically the official Haiku Writing Month, prompts are posted for every day of every month. While haikus are short poems, they do take time to piece together. I’m not sure about adding a second set of prompts to an already full haiku writing schedule.

Possible Solution: I could give up NaHaiWriMo for a month and just focus on the PAD Challenge.

Option #2: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Pros: I’ve been itching to start writing another novel. In particular, I want to get moving on the sequel to The Muse. I’ve got the basic story outlined, (although there are some pretty big holes to fill in), and my characters are getting chatty in my head. I already know where the story will start, I have a prologue in play, and I know how it ends. I just need a nudge to get this going.

Cons: This is a huge commitment! 1,667 words a day is a tall order for me as I continue to work full-time, manage blogs, take care of home and family, and craft (I refuse to give up my handicraft time as it is therapeutic stress relief!). This year my day job is more overwhelming than usual as I am now teaching three Advance Placement level courses, one of which is new to me (and therefore requires significant out of classroom planning). I don’t know that there are enough hours in the day to pull this off! Never mind, that I’m still trying to find an agent for The Muse. Do I really want to start a sequel for a novel still sitting unpublished, much less unrepresented?

Possible Solution: NaNoWriMo challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. Maybe I can adjust the goal to meet my personal needs. Instead of 1,667 words, I can challenge myself to write 500 words a day. I may not end up with a completed novel, but I’d have a great start.

I still have a couple of weeks to decide exactly what challenge I’ll take on. However, if the day job gets any busier, I may have to let both challenges go. As hard as that is to do, I have my sanity to consider and I think my muse would agree!

Regardless, my usual writing practice will continue. Poetry and whatever my muse inspires will show up at least three times a week, right here! Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2016

 

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A Year of Haiku

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It all started with a journal and a goal. The journal had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time – I was saving it for something special as it had a gorgeous suede cover embossed with maple leaves. The goal came from a newfound love of haiku that started with haikubes and grew to an all out obsession after participating in a poem-a-day challenge.

When I realized writing haiku was a full-blown passion, I decided to fully immerse myself in the practice. That meant writing at least one haiku every single day. Suddenly my beautiful suede journal had a purpose!

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A beautiful journal for a haiku challenge!

While it sounds easy enough to write three lines (or less) of poetry each day, the comes with its fair share of challenges. In September 2014, I started the process by using haikubes, but quickly found it was very time consuming and didn’t always lend itself to what I wanted to express.

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My first attempts were quite overwritten with metaphors and superfluous language. Haiku should instead be clean and simple.

So, I started looking out my window, where I found loads of inspiration from the birds, changing sunlight, and weather. From there, I simply focused my lens of observation anywhere I happened to be.  I have haikus scribbled on napkins, typed on my cell phone, and written on the back of receipts. There are little moments happening all the time and the practice of haiku has helped me open my eyes to see them.

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The last page of my journal puts the first page in perspective. These last entries are little closer to the true spirit of haiku.

Hungry for more, I sought more inspiration and found it on National Haiku Writing Month’s Facebook page. While February is technically the official Haiku Writing Month, the organization offers daily prompts during every month. While challenging, the prompts allowed me to dig even deeper into my haiku writing practice. So deep in fact, I started writing well outside the traditional 5-7-5 format.

The jump from 5-7-5 to contemporary haiku was a big one, but I don’t regret it. While the rules are a bit more relaxed, the challenge remains in place. Instead of 17 total syllables, I aim to keep my haiku at 12 syllables or less. This decision in itself made me realize how far my evolution has gone – instead of adhering to strict guidelines, I am finding my own voice and rules within the established form. I’m not afraid to be myself and experiment.

My most recent shift in haiku occurred recently. Reading contemporary English-language haiku opened up a new format called monoku or single line haiku. One line captures all the essential elements of haiku and is usually under 10 syllables. While simple, it is also incredibly difficult. That said, I am fascinated by this form and will continue to play with it.

On October 9, 2015, my haiku journal project was completed. I filled every page (front and back) with haikus I felt were the best I could make them (so many more remain in draft form in my “brainstorming” journals). All told, my journal holds 880 haikus. Upon reflection it is quite astounding to see where I started and where I ended up in terms of form, style, and technique.

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Page after page of haiku!

Even after 880 haikus, I feel like I’m just getting started. Hence, the start of a new project – another journal is prepped and ready to go. Between the personal satisfaction and inklings of publication (local and online journals) my haiku practice has brought me, all I want to do is write more. Whether it’s the traditional  5-7-5 or ultra-modern monoku, I am anxious to see what another year of haiku will bring.

 

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c.b.w. 2015

Are You Sure?

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There are days where I question the choices I’ve made. Truth be told, days like this are becoming more frequent. It’s like every element of my life is playing a little game with me called, “Are you sure?”

Honestly, I don’t know.

Perhaps, its a mid-life crisis attacking a bit early. Or maybe, I am just ready for a change. Admittedly, I am a creature of habit. My very organized self likes a schedule and gets a little thrill when everything works out as planned. This aspect of my personality was a mild quirk when I was younger, but after 14 years of teaching, it’s become a full-blown neurosis. I’m starting to realize this is making life a lot less fun.

Although, this feeling of “life doubt” could also be tied to what I consider a noticeably missing piece of my existence. Travel. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I traveled extensively overseas. I saved and planned for it, because it was such an important part of my life. However, the last three years have been tough. Between budgets constraints and family concerns, I haven’t really gone anywhere. The fact that my bucket list has largely gone ignored is starting to bug me.

Then, there’s the undeniable fact that I’m tired. Exhausted, actually. Working 10-12 hours a day at a job that is getting increasingly more stressful and frustrating is starting to wear me down. As much as I love the art of teaching, it’s getting difficult to love where I work. I don’t know if it’s just one of those challenging years or if I’m reaching a point of total burn out. Thankfully, my students aren’t picking up my general feeling of frustration (I know this because they constantly tell me they like how positive it is in my classroom). At the same time, I am perusing job postings for possibilities that lie beyond my current station.

With all of this going on in my head, it’s surprising to me that I remain a total optimist. A little funk never wiped the smile off my face and it probably never will.

My family and my writing keep my fire burning. As my novel reaches the final stages of becoming a polished piece of work, I find myself excited to take the next steps. When it comes to the game of “Are you sure?,” this is the one thing where I know the answer is a definite “Yes!”

After a crappy day at work, I love escaping into my dreamworld where my novel finds its way into print. I can wander into lines of poetry and fuss over plot holes while drinking my Muse Juice (Cafe Mocha). When all else fails, there is the beautiful dream of being able to write (and maybe knit a little) all day long. Lucky for me, my husband and furkids are cool with joining me on this journey.

Of course, the game of “Are you sure?” has the added bonus of motivating real change. Besides reconsidering my job situation, there have also been a number of discussions regarding a change of location. We’re thinking the Pacific Northwest might be a nice change of scenery within the next few years. A road trip to scope it out is in the planning stages. Am I sure about moving? Not really, but I’m excited to explore the possibility of something new.

Aside from considering major life changes, I’ve started stuffing money aside for a trip to Amsterdam. My bucket list is in dire need of a check mark and my soul craves the touch of a new experience.

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c.b.w. 2014

Photography Challenge: Grayscale

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For this week’s installment of the photography challenge, I experimented with the black and white setting on my camera.  As much as I love playing with color, the stark lines created by black and white photography stir my soul.  Three of the prompts on the challenge list fit my inspiration to view the world without color.

Prompt: Capture something in black and white

It’s been years since I’ve looked closely at a lantern I keep on my fireplace mantle.  Every evening this beautiful pattern illuminates when a flameless candle switches on for the night.

Photo by: c.b.w.

Prompt: Capture contrast

These trees are in my neighbor’s yard, but I never noticed the beautiful silhouette they create at sunset until I pointed my camera at them.

Photo by: c.b.w.

Prompt: Capture the light

For this shot I was inspired by how the shadows created by light looked like rays of sunshine.

Photo by: c.b.w.

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To see all the details of the photography challenge, go here.

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c.b.w. 2012

Photography Challenge: Insight

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The prompts I ended up working with this week all seemed to ask for little insights into myself. Between old memories, self reflection, and a moment of peace, I continue to be amazed at how the practice of photography continues to revolutionize how I look at the world.

Prompt: Capture a quiet space where you feel at peace.

The calm before a storm is always a moment where I take a deep breath and absorb the stillness.  I took this shot twenty minutes before a huge dust storm exploded across the landscape.

Photo by: c.b.w.

Prompt: Record a smell that reminds you of a favorite memory.

The smell of green onions always takes me back to my grandparents’ house in the summer.  We’d spend all day swimming in the lake until Grandma called us in for dinner.  She used green onions in a lot of her recipes, including her delectable meatloaf. Whenever I catch a whiff of that scent I feel the cool lake water on my skin and I hear Tom Brokaw on the evening news while Grandma sings in the kitchen.

Photo by: c.b.w.

Prompt: Take a self-portrait to express your feelings today.

This prompt is a little tricky because I don’t post my face online.  My mother can vouch for the fact that I do not photograph well!  So, to cross this item off the list, I decided to draw a self-portrait and photograph the result.  If she looks a little familiar, its because I modeled my portrait after a character in one of my favorite books, Little Miss Sunshine, (by Roger Hargreaves). This is a nickname a few people have given me over the years as I am generally happy every day!

Photo and drawing by: c.b.w.

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To see all the details of the photography challenge, go here.

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c.b.w. 2012