My Brand New Video Diary/Blog

Right now due to an injury with my right shoulder/arm/back/neck area I can’t type, write or even draw too much. So I figured this would be a good time to start the YouTube video diary/blog I’ve been thinking about making. I am attaching the link to the first video where I basically just introduced myself and the subjects I will likely feature on the video blog series:

New ebook release! “Through the Eyes of a Child: An Aspie’s Art Journal”

One of the many pictures featured in my art journal. Find out how this painting and many other pictures were inspired!

Hello everyone! I just wanted to take a few minutes today to tell you all about my newest Kindle ebook release! This ebook is entitled “Through the Eyes of a Child: An Aspie’s Art Journal” and is available from Amazon for only $.99!

In case you are wondering, “why an art journal”? It is because:

A) I love art! I love to create art, I love to share my art and I love to get feedback on my art. I also love to inspire others to create their own art and celebrate the amazing power of human creativity.

B) I wanted to share my own creative process and the way my “Aspie” brain works. Many times having Asperger’s is thought of as a negative thing, like there is something really wrong with us. However, I think having Asperger’s definitely has some upsides, including our different way of looking at things and the way we manage to keep that innocent, naïve spirit that most people lose once they reach adulthood. Sometimes others see this innocence as childishness, but I prefer to think of it as child-likeness. With the heart of a child, we retain the natural creativity, joy, independence, optimism and kindness that is missing in so much of the world today. The world needs us Aspies!

So, if you get the chance to check out my little ebook, I hope you will. Hopefully, it will entertain you with some colorful artwork, but more importantly, I hope it will inspire you to let your own inner child come out and play.

Review of Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s Poetry Books

For this post I am going to review two poetry books by Patricia Neely-Dorsey, a poet who uses her writing to show her love for Mississippi and the simple pleasures of southern living.

missmagBook #1 – Reflections of a Mississipi Magnolia: A Life in Poems

The first poetry book that Patricia Neely-Dorsey released covers a broad range of topics, from southern life & country living to childhood memories, family history and other deeply personal subjects. Although I have never lived in Mississippi or spent much time there, I felt that Ms. Dorsey was able to bring the culture to life in a way that anyone could relate to. The poet’s pride and passion for her state shines through, illustrating the importance of connecting to a place and taking the time to truly lay down roots.

Although I enjoyed the poems about southern life and country living, I must admit my favorite poems came later in the book when the author delved more deeply into her personal life and relationships. I especially related to a poem titled “Know It All (He Thinks)”, as I’m sure any parent of a teen or preteen could! Another favorite was the short poem, “Waxing Poetic”, which any creative spirit is sure to understand. As I read through the collection, I enjoyed the playful sense of humor in many of the poems, but also discovered a few poems that really made me stop and think or made me smile in wistful longing.

This is definitely a poetry collection that is heartfelt, inspiring and easily understood. Whether you are a Mississippi native or not, this is one that can be enjoyed by everyone.

imagesBook #2 – My Magnolia Memories and Musings: In Poems

Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s second poetry book looks and sounds a lot like the first one if you only look at the cover and the title, but I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh, truly new material inside its pages. As I began to read through the poems, I noticed that the poet’s style and view on life had evolved and changed a little since the first collection. Although the subjects covered are similar in some ways to those explored in the first book, they are often tackled in a different way in this collection.

One addition to this collection that I found delightful was the small collection of photographs shared throughout. The visual aids definitely make the book more appealing and help to make readers feel more involved as they read through the poet’s experiences and memories.

I also noticed that the author seems to embrace free verse more in this collection. Although there are still some rhyming poems for those who prefer more traditional poetry, I felt that this collection leaned heavily towards freedom of expression and form, which seemed to make some of the poems even more personal and hard-hitting. Many of my favorite poems were in the section that talks about loss, a subject that wasn’t covered much in the first book.

Overall, I feel that this second book of poetry naturally picks up where the first book left off and shows the growth and wisdom of an evolving poet. I would highly recommend this book to poetry and literature lovers or to anyone that simply loves great writing.

For more information about Patricia Neely-Dorsey, her books or where to order a copy for yourself, please visit the author’s website, http://patricianeelydorsey.webs.com/.

New ebook! “Whiskers and Hairballs: My Life as a Cat”

 Hi everyone! I just wanted to write a short post to let everyone know that I just released a new ebook entitled “Whiskers and Hairballs: My Life as a Cat”. This photo-illustrated picture book is a humorous look at the ups and downs of daily life, seen from the viewpoint of a house cat. With short, simple prose, this book is perfect for beginning readers, but the funny pictures and keen sense of humor will also appeal to cat lovers of all ages!

I hope you will check it out soon! You can buy this new ebook from Amazon for only $2.99 per Kindle download!

Happy Halloween!!! Now get to writing!

First off, Happy Halloween to all of my fans, readers and fellow lovers of everything spooky! Halloween is probably my favorite holiday, and not just because my birthday falls close to it. I love creepy, dark and dreary stuff, so maybe that explains why my favorite authors are Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson.

Anyhow, Halloween is a great time to sit down and let your imagination run loose as well. If you love to write, feel free to take one of the following Halloween-themed writing prompts and make it your own! You can use these prompts to write a story, poem, journal entry, Tweet or anything else your little heart desires. Have fun!

*If you could be anyone or anything this Halloween, who or what would you be? Why?

*Use your senses. Brainstorm a list of all the Halloween sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings you can think of.

*Pretend you are a symbol of Halloween. Describe Halloween from the point of view of a jack-o-lantern, bat, witch, spider, candy bar…or anything else you think of!

*Do you agree with schools banning the celebration of Halloween due to the religious or spiritual roots of the holiday? Why or why not?

*What is the best trick you have ever pulled on someone? Or the best trick pulled on you?

*Make your own witch’s brew. What would go into it? What would the concoction do?

*What really scares you? Write about it.

*How has Halloween changed since you were a kid? Do you miss the way things used to be?

*Should adults be allowed to trick or treat?

What makes a good poem?

Poetry is an intensely personal thing, so opinions abound regarding what makes a poem truly good. I’m not here to tell you that I know the magic formula or to try and pretend that I am some literary genius that has it all figured out, but I would like to share my opinion of what makes a poem stand out above the rest. Undoubtedly, some of you will disagree with my criteria, which is fine. In fact, I would encourage you to post a comment with your own opinion on the matter if you wish to do so.

So without further ado…my list of poetry must-haves:

1. Honesty – is this one really a surprise? After all, I named my recently published poetry book, “Not Afraid to Be Real”. And to me, that isn’t just a clever title. I strive in all my writing to be honest and present life realistically. Of course, since poetry tends to focus more on thoughts, feelings and images, the honesty in my poetry tends to be more about the inner life than about the outer life. However, both elements are involved.

2. Clarity – I choose this as second, because I really don’t like poetry that doesn’t make a lick of sense. That is probably my number one turnoff when I choose a poetry book to read or buy. If I flip through and find several poems that are overly ambiguous, I put it back down and keep looking. I should make it clear that there is a difference between random humor and pointless confusion. After all, I love the show Family Guy, and that humor is about as random as you can get.

3. Description – most writers know that poetry falls under the category of descriptive writing. Description is extremely important if you want to write a poem that really moves a reader and makes them feel a part of the experience. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to describe every single little thing you see, hear, taste or touch. Pick a few details that really give the vibe you want. Try to make them as specific as possible (instead of tree, use oak, instead of ice cream, use chocolate chip cookie dough, etc.)

4. Spelling and grammar – maybe a bit of a bummer, but writing poetry doesn’t mean abandoning ALL of the writing rules. Yeah, you have a lot more leeway with poetry as far as sentence structure and form goes, but please check your spelling and grammar. The only time a word should be spelled wrong in a poem is if the poet did it on purpose to introduce some clever word play.

5. Make a point – it doesn’t have to be revolutionary or mind-blowing, but poems are a lot more fun to read if they actually have a point and don’t just ramble on about nothing. You don’t have to make the poem preachy or moralistic or anything like that, but make sure you know what you are trying to say. If you don’t know what your poem means, then it’s highly unlikely that anyone else will either.

6. Don’t overdo it – some poets layer on image after image after image until their writing is so bogged down that it becomes dull and boring. Sometimes simple really is better. Know what you want to say and how you want to show it, then figure out the best way to share that with your reader. If your poem has you yawning halfway through, your reader probably won’t even make it that far into it. If you bring your readers to tears, you want it to be from a deep emotional reaction to your words, not from boredom.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little list. You might have noticed that I didn’t include typical poetic devices, such as metaphors, similes, alliteration, repetition, rhyme, rhythm or form. That isn’t because those aren’t important at all, but because I don’t think they are absolutely necessary to create great poetry. However, if you already have a great concept, adding some of those poetic devices to your poem might make it even better, so do consider using them.

Proud to present my newest release, “Not Afraid to Be Real: A Poetry Collection”

This promo might be coming a bit late since my new young adult poetry book, “Not Afraid to Be Real” has been available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble since July 11th, but things have been kind of hectic here. Anyhow, I am really proud of this book. I took the photos that accompany the poems, wrote the poems and even came up with the idea for the book cover image (although my publisher liason, Neal Wooten, was the one who had the artistic talent to turn my idea into artwork).

The idea behind “Not Afraid to Be Real” was simple. I wanted to write poetry that has real heart, real literary value and above all, actually makes sense to people. I have always been turned off by poetry that is confusing or long winded, so I didn’t want to put my readers through that. The finished product is a down-to-earth collection of meaningful poems about life, love, grief and inspiration, with a dash of humor and weirdness thrown in just for fun.

Of course, I think the best way to decide if you want to buy a book or not is to sample it, so feel free to check out this FREE SAMPLE from my Facebook fan page, containing four full-length poems from “Not Afraid to Be Real”!

A warning for those who want to be published writers

Currently I am reading a book entitled Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life, written by Anne Lamott. This book is considered a classic as far as books about writing go, and now I can see why. It is full of truth, wisdom and encouragement for novice or even experienced writers. There is one passage in the introduction that really struck me, one that I think any beginning writer should be told -

“…I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway. But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived. My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.”

Honestly, I’m not sure truer words have ever been spoken about the writing life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, I would never quit…but sometimes the actual business of writing and publishing can make you as miserable as it makes you happy. Bad reviews, marketing failures, endless editing, lonely book signings (where you feel ignored), low sales…all of these things can bring a writer down quicker than you might imagine. Plus, for 99% of us (or more), it seems to be a struggle to pay any of our bills with what we make writing, let alone live a comfy lifestyle.

So why continue to do it? Why not throw in the towel and quit or just write for yourself? I can’t answer for every writer, but for me it is because…

A) I love to read & write

and

B) I really want to share that passion and my own creativity with others.

Next to those reasons, all the small stuff doesn’t seem quite as important. At least not to me.

Some of the best books ever written were self-published

It seems like there is a lot of condescension in the literary world about “self-published” authors. This annoys me. First off, because I have many friends who self-published excellent books, and secondly, because I have self-published two ebooks (even though my print books aren’t self-published).

So where does this bias come from? Is it because throughout history self-published books have been crappy? I highly doubt that. In fact, many of the best books ever written were self-published. Don’t believe me? Well, here is a short list of some self-pubbed classics:

*Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” was turned down by six publishers, but this didn’t get the young authoress down. She decided to self-publish the book. One of the publishers who had turned down the project saw the completed book, changed his mind and offered to publish the next edition of the book.

*Mark Twain, fed up with his previous publisher, decided to self-publish “Huck Finn”. Ironically it became one of his bestselling books, perhaps because he implemented a door-to-door marketing campaign.

*Edgar Allan Poe (my favorite writer of all time by the way), self-published his first book “Tamerlane and Other Poems”, thus effectively launching his career (even if he never did get the money or respect he deserved while alive).

*Charles Dickens self-published “A Christmas Carol” after having a fight with his publisher over the earnings related to a previous book.

*Some great authors like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters even struggled to get publishers to publish their books “all expenses paid”! In fact, Jane Austen’s family offered a publisher the opportunity to publish Jane’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, on ”behalf of the author who will incur all expenses”. Not only did Jane’s family pay for publishing costs, but they also had to pay a commission to the publisher for each book sold! Sounds like a rotten deal to me, but she did ok in the end.

*Ever read Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”? Neither have I, but it was self-published too.

*Even the manual that many writers use as their Bible was first self-published. Where would we be without William Strunk’s “The Elements of Style?”

*Some other authors who are said to have self-published at some point in their careers: Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, e.e. Cummings, Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound, Stephen Crane, Rudyard Kipling, Alexandre Dumas, Henry David Thoreau (plus many, many more, but I really don’t want to type all their names, so Google it if you are interested).

In the end, I’m not going to say that all self-published books are good, any more than I would say all traditionally published books are good, but I do think all books deserve to be judged for their literary merit, rather than their publisher.

Tips for teaching poetry writing to kids and teens

Along with all the author visits and book signings I do, I also spend some of my time teaching poetry and other writing forms to kids and teens. I often have teachers express to me how hard they find it to teach poetry (or any kind of writing) to the kids in their classroom, so I figured I would offer a few tips that I have found work for me when it comes to getting kids excited about writing in general and poetry in particular.

*First off, allow kids freedom with poetry writing, especially when they are first starting out. Free verse tends to be the most accessible and least intimidating form to begin with. If you try to force your students to rhyme or follow a form, you will quickly have a room of frustrated kids.

*Show your kids how much variety there really is in the poetry world. For many children their experience with poetry is limited to nursery rhymes and Dr. Suess. Make your classroom a poetry-friendly zone. Hang up posters with different kinds of poems on them, stock your bookshelves with an assortment of kid-friendly poetry books and make sure you include great examples of poetry in your curriculum throughout the year.

*Read your students poems that were written by kids their age. Before a child will feel confident that they can write poetry, they need to know that other kids their age have been successful with poetry writing and have even gotten published. A few great resources to find poems by kids and teens include the magazines Highlights for Children, Teen Ink and Stone Soup.

*Make it fun. Allow kids to play poetry games. One fun medium that has always seemed to be popular with kids and teens is magnetic poetry. If you have never played with magnetic poetry yourself, feel free to check out www.magneticpoetry.com to see what it is all about.

*Use prompts the kids will actually care about. The fastest way to lose your students’ interest is to give them boring, stuffy prompts. Don’t ask them to write an ode to spring or something predictable like that. Instead, ask them to write about bullies, pets, friends, dreams, things they love, things they hate, what makes them angry, etc. Just because kids are young doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings and emotions every bit as strong as adults do.

*Make your class a safe, constructive review zone. Encourage kids to share their poems with the class so that they can receive feedback, but make sure all the kids know that only kind, helpful comments are allowed. No teasing, jeering or laughing at a fellow student’s work (unless the poem is meant to be funny of course).

I hope you have found these tips to be useful. Feel free to let me know what works for you and what doesn’t. You can contact me at Shojobeatgirl@live.com if you have any comments or questions, or you can simply leave a comment below. Also, feel free to contact me if you are interested in having me visit your library, class or school!