RhyMoWriMo: The WB Celebrates National Poetry Month

I’m celebrating National Poetry Month on the Write-Brained Network in a big way.

Poetry seems to intimidate people who don’t write or read it often (what is up with that??), and I think this is a great opportunity to change that perception and do something cool.  So, if poetry isn’t necessarily in your comfort zone, GOOD!  All the better! I hope you’ll come check us out our festivities and participate anyway!


Since September on the WB, we have had writing challenges every month.  For example, we have WordWatchers, which is basically like NaNoWriMo—except it’s a bit more laid back in that you set the amount of words you think would be feasible (but still challenging) to write in a given week, and then you report on your progress, etc.

However, WordWatchers is for fiction and nonfiction and doesn’t really work for poets because poetry isn’t about making daily or weekly word counts.

Enter RhyMoWriMo, which will be sort of like WordWatchers. The poetry won’t have to RHYME—I just thought the name had a nice, dorky ring to it. Participants will have one official prompt or type of poem to write per week in April (starting Monday, April 4), for a chance to win a prize.


Photo credit: Molly Nook

To introduce some amazing modern poets to the group, we will present a series of short interviews with a “featured poet” or poetry expert each week.

To kick off our the series, meet Dave Lucas, whose debut poetry collection, Weather, hit shelves April 1.

Dave was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the recipient of a Henry Hoyns Fellowship from the University of Virginia and a “Discovery”/The Nation Prize, and his poems have appeared in many journals including Paris Review, Poetry, and Slate. He lives in Cleveland and Ann Arbor, where he is a PhD candidate in English language and literature at the University of Michigan.

See my interview with the award-winning poet.

Dave, on sonnets.


Try your hand at writing a sonnet—extra points for a “more advanced” entry (here’s a refresher course).  Leave your entries in the comments to this post for a chance to win a signed copy of Dave’s debut collection, Weather.


This month’s chat topic to be poetry.  Genius, I know. But it’s going to be a little different in that we will have a guest or two—perhaps one or two of the folks featured in the series (TBA).

Get over your poetry phobias and get scrawling!

Interview with Signature Literary’s Gary Heidt, Part II

As some of you may know, I am a contributor to Writer’s Digest Books.  One of the many fantabulous things I’ve done as a contributor is interview literary agents for Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog.*

Recently, I interviewed Signature Literary Agency, LLC’s Gary Heidt, and he had much to say about the industry, writing and his preferences in terms of fiction and nonfiction.

Since he had already been featured on GLA, I wanted to show him some literary love right here—so please enjoy part I of the interview.**

Before this Heidt became a literary agent with Imprint Agency in 2003, this Columbia University grad was a DJ and station manager at WKNR-FM, a musician, a poet, a columnist and a theatre administrator.  He has been with Signature Literary Agency, LLC, since 2009, and he represents both fiction and nonfiction.

Click here for Gary’s “wish list” to see the types of projects he currently seeks.

RS:  Being that you are a writer (poet, former columnist, playwright) as well as an agent, how do you think this dual perspective affects the types of projects you take on?

GH: I have done a lot of bad, lazy writing over the years, so I can spot it a mile away. One of the problems with bad writing is that you don’t know how bad it is until later on (if you’re lucky enough to grow.) Most bad literary writers (like me) really believe that their work is amazing. One reason that I have artistically been focusing on my poetry is because it’s so short, I can get more work in per word. It’s also extremely unlikely to ever generate any money.

As an agent, I look at things that could potentially have an audience, unlike my very strange poetry. There is a place where good art can find an audience and therefore become lucrative, but not all good art is capable of being appreciated by a sizable

You might catch Heidt's eye if you're down with this.


In every time, there are certain popular media that present communal dreams. Today it’s the Internet and video games. Books are still appreciated by a small minority, but the mass market paperback is a thing of the past, and this small, educated group is getting smaller.

These days, to get the shrinking attention of a shrinking subset of a distracted population, you have to either know what you’re doing and work extremely hard to do it, or you have to be on fire with the genius, inspired by the Muses.

As a writer I know how difficult it is to be either, so I think I really sympathize with what my writers go through. I don’t represent any “hacks.” My clients, generally speaking, take their work very seriously and invest a great deal of their hearts and souls into their work.

RS:  You area you seek is “techno-thriller.”  What constitutes this category, and how does a writer know he’s written one?

GH: I’d say if he isn’t sure, it probably isn’t a techno-thriller.  My favorite techno-thriller of all time is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s The Ice Limit.

They’re like what we used to call “hard science fiction,” except the science isn’t fictional. In other words, technology is a major plot element, and there’s a geeky joy in explaining the technology and how it works.

RS:  You also represent graphic novels.  What draws you to these and what makes for a killer graphic novel query?

GH: After a decade of growth, graphic novels are in a contraction. I am more interested in writer/artists than collaborations. Also, I’d look to see past pubication credits.

RS:  Among a host of other subjects, your agency Web site says you accept “Fortean/High Strangeness/paranormal.” However, it also specifically states that you do not accept science fiction or fantasy.  With your interest in science- as well as paranormal-related nonfiction projects, what is it that turns you off to speculative fiction?

GH: It would be great to be well-read in every genre, but unfortunately, due to time constraints, I am forced to specialize. I’m just not up-to-date on science fiction or fantasy.

To be able to work with thrillers, for example, I have to read all the popular thriller writers working today, so that I know how a project stacks up against the competition.

I like a lot of science fiction and fantasy books, but they’re classics– I haven’t done much reading in those genres in the past two decades.

RS:  What are you sick of seeing in memoir proposals that come across your desk?

GH: The only thing that I see regularly in memoir proposals that I don’t like is axe-grinding.

RS:  Best piece of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

GH: Find an audience, and the publishers will come to you!

RS:  Thanks for your time, Gary!

*Click here to see some of my lit agent interviews on the GLA blog.  Chuck’s got my name & pic on the ones I’ve done.

**Click here for Part I of the interview.

SWA Presenter Spotlight: Susan Meyers

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing* at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.**

Next up is poet Susan Meyers.


Past president of both the North Carolina Poetry Society and The Poetry Society of South Carolina, Meyers mentors creative writing students at the Charleston County School of the Arts.  Her poetry book, Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press) has earned the SC Poetry Book Prize, the Brockman-Campbell Book Award and the SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) Book Award for Poetry.

In addition to being a writing instructor, the award-winning poet also received the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Poetry Fellowship and served as the 2005 Poet-in-Residence at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston and for County School of the Arts.  She has been published in several literary journals such as The Southern Review, Crazyhorse and Tar River Poetry as well as the Web sites Verse Daily and Poetry Daily.

For more information about her work, please visit her blog.



RS:  How did you get into writing?

SM: I’ve always written, but I began to write poetry seriously about 22 years ago, when I took my first poetry workshop with Paul Rice at Coastal Carolina University. I was hooked.

RS:  What keeps you writing?

SM: At first, it was the pleasure of it—the fascination of creating something. Before long, though, it became a part of my life, and now I feel the genuine need to write.

A number of my favorite activities also egg me on: reading poems I fall in love with, going to poetry readings, observing nature and the world around me.

RS:  What do you do when you’re not writing?

SM: Birding, biking (as well as spin classes at the Y), reading, teaching, going to poetry events and daydreaming—I’ve always been a big daydreamer.

RS:  What draws you to poetry?

SM: Poetry helps me to make meaning of life. I’m drawn to its compression—the engagement with language, rhythm and sound.

RS:  What are you currently working on?

SM: I just finished a brief set of poems based on lines from Sappho. So now I’m back to writing poem by poem; plus, I’m in the process of circulating a new book manuscript.

RS:  What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet—and why?

SM: I’m not much of a dabbler—I tend to leap into something with both feet—so I’m pretty immersed in poetry writing. I also do book reviews and enjoy that when I have time. I love to read creative nonfiction, so that would probably be the next genre if I were to tackle another.

RS:  What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

SM: Poetry by Li-Young Lee, T.S. Eliot,  Joshua Poteat, Atsuro Riley, Malena Morling, Lucille Clifton. Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Art (edited by Daniel Tobin and Pimone Triplett). Indiana Review, Poetry, Cave Wall and other literary journals.

RS:  Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

SM: When I first started taking poetry seriously, I’d go to the library and check out a set of six audio tapes of James Dickey reading his poems, and I’d play them over and over.  This was back when you could see who had checked out library materials before you.

Week after week, my name was the only one on the library card. The strong rhythms and intensity of Dickey’s early work made a huge impression on me.

Years before I had studied—and greatly admired—the work of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats; and Dickey’s work had a similar effect on me. I wanted to write with that same passion.

Do YOU remember the library card catalog?

RS:  Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

SM: I’ll be teaching four sessions of a poetry workshop on craft. I’m calling it “Which Words, What Order?” The classes will basically turn to diction and syntax as two means of surprise.

My goal is for those of us in the workshop to stretch ourselves by moving beyond the expected, by surprising ourselves—and our readers—with what we say and how we say it.

We’ll work some with tag clouds, and we’ll look at the variety that poets/writers can gain by paying closer attention to syntax.

Those are just two of the activities planned. I’m planning it so that it should be helpful to poets and prose writers alike, and I’ll be sure to include handouts.


For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.

*To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

**For more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

SWA Presenter Spotlight: Bud Hearn

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presentersFor more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

Next up is inspirational writer Bud Hearn.


This Georgia-born-and-bred athletic enthusiast pursues real estate investments and developments by day . . . and writes by night.  Well, sort of.  He writes whenever he can find a spare minute.

To check out the University of Georgia graduate’s blog, Ask Mr. Irrelevant, where you can see samples of his writing as well as what he calls “flash fiction vignettes of inanity,” click here.


RS:  How did you get into writing?

BH: I lacked five hours of English in having a double major at the University of Georgia. My degree was a Bachelor of Business Administration in Real Estate in 1964. You guessed it . . . 68 in a couple months.  But family, mortgages and other requirements of money confined my writing to contracts and prospectuses in hopes of writing deposit tickets.

When we moved from Atlanta to Sea Island, Ga., in 2004, a friend and I began hosting a “community lunch” for friends, which has grown from a few to hundreds, every Friday (now for over five years!). I would send out the menu every Thursday and began to add my mental musings along with it . . . some call it my mental flush.

A couple magazines picked up on it and asked me to contribute. I write monthly for one and sporadically for the pet magazine (in the voice of my dog). So, every week I have to come up with another idea or subject, all of which have been different.

My son published two books anthologizing some of my work.  I use [them] as … “business card[s],” which [have] been very helpful in getting more real estate business.

RS:  What keeps you writing?

BH: I guess, as long as I do the free lunches, I’ll have to do writing. But truthfully, and beyond that, it is like a “well of water, springing up” that keeps me going.

I have always been obsessive … if you consider such foolishness as running 50 miles at a time obsessive, although I refer to it as a passion, or “an enemy within, attempting to get out.”

[Writing is] fun, and ideas and words flow. I think when it becomes a burden, or a struggle or a chore, I’ll quit and find something else to do that juices me. After all, life consists not in the end result, which is a grave or urn of ashes, but in the “process of living,” and it’s the process that gives me life! I’m sure somebody quoted that somewhere, but I lay claim to it here.

Hearn and my husband have more than running in common: they're both former Bulldogs!

RS:  What do you do when you’re not writing?

BH: Search for time to read more, more, more. But mainly I work on real estate deals . . . creative ways to add value to a lifeless asset in hopes of continuing to write deposit tickets.

I enjoy physical exercise . . . brings out the best in me. Now, mostly the gym and yoga. Running is no longer fun, with a bad hip.

I enjoy playing the piano—reminds me of the bands I had in high school and college.

My life is pretty balanced and disciplined. I’m real comfortable in my own skin, and I must admit, weather permitting, walking the dogs on the beach across from my home is about as nirvanic (if there’s such a word) as it gets!!!

Hearn and his beach pals.

RS:  What draws you to the Inspirational category?

BH: I think it’s a natural temperament. But more than that, natural temperaments must be used or they’re wasted . . . and life is too short to waste any of it!

One can’t sell real estate without being inspirational. And Life gives us only one absolute: the right of choice.

So, one can choose to be negative, or one can choose to be positive. I choose to be inspirational. I think the Latin for this is de datur tertium—“there is no third choice.”

RS:  What are you currently working on?

BH: Struggling with everybody else on real estate deals . . . that’s what I’m working on.  Money needs transcend about everything else.

Insofar as writing is concerned, I just continue the flash fiction pieces and attempt to add creativity to my thoughts and ideas.

Since I’m a little ADD (some say a lot), I get bored with things that drag on and on, so flash fiction suits my temperament well. At least now it does. Besides, at my age, what “future” do I have in writing, or about anything else for that matter?

As my wife reminds me, “You’re not Faulkner.” So I just create and move on to the next thing.

William Faulkner - not Hearn. Although, I can see a slight resemblance . . . 🙂

RS:  What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet—and why?

BH: Well, for years when I was in my 30s, I wrote volumes of legal pads of my internal introspection. Their residence was in boxes in the basement, and when we moved, I took a few out and read them.

Not bad, I thought, but of what use were they, now that I was well beyond those years?  So I dumped them, along with the hundreds of “sermons” I wrote in my 40s and 50s (I taught Bible classes for about 25 years).

I’ve always been drawn to poetry, and lately, haiku is interesting to me. It’s short, concise to a fault and easy to write on about any subject one wants.  Fits my ADD temperament.

I tried to lengthen some of my flash fiction into bona fide short stories, but the detail got boring, and I saw no future in it.

I also ran across, a couple years ago, Hemmingway’s take on “a book in six words.” He wrote,  “Baby shoes, for sale, never used.” Wow, I thought.  So, I tried some of that.  I like it.

RS:  What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

BH: I find it hard to read at night. Morning is my best time of day. But I read several books at one time . . . currently, it’s Born to Run by [Christopher] McDougall, [Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-five of North Carolina’s Finest Writers] … edited by Marianne Gingher and the early novels of Cormac McCarthy, which will complete my reading of all 11 novels by him.

RS:  Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

BH: What, name just one author that shaped me? Who can do that, you fool? Where would the starting line be?

But if I must, my beginning was at age 13 when I began to read the Bible. The epistles of the apostle Paul have, and continue to, influence me in a very deep spiritual sense.  They drill down to the core of things for me, and I never tire of reading them.

But in the carnal sense, in the “real world,” as we call it, I really like [Truman] Capote, [Cormac] McCarthy, O. Henry and Ambrose Bierce.

Truman Capote. Photograph by Irving Penn, 1965.

RS:  Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

BH: I like the idea of “getting inside of the metaphor” concept (i.e., putting ourselves “into” the situation or event, and letting it draw from us our own conclusions, far from editorializations of others). Being present inside of a metaphor or event, arouses all sorts of ideas, passions and possibilities. It all goes with my idea of “Believing is seeing, not seeing is believing.” I always conclude with a discussion on the idea of “Imagine the Possibilities” (think: Lewis Carroll here).

All my classes are interactive, not lecture. Who wants to hear someone else pontificate? They’re like “gesture drawing,” quick sketches of the subject matter. And classes where nothing is wrong—except a blank sheet of paper!

Goals? What other goals are there except one: That of allowing the spirit within find a place to express itself outwardly. That’s my goal—for each participant to be able to transcend fear and worry and let their spirits express [themselves] unhindered.

Get some words down - pronto!


For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.  Don’t wait to sign up—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

In the Blogosphere: 1/18-1/22

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.


Over at his blog, The Book Deal, editor extraordinaire Alan Rinzler shares some tips on hooking agents and editors.  He also gives examples of good hooks.  This blog is chock-full of all kinds of writing tips and just brimming with awesomeness, so check it out.

Over at WOW! Women on Writing, fellow Writer’s Digest contributor Kerrie Flanagan gives tips on how to pitch an agent.

The Oatmeal has become one of my favorite sites, with its hilarious lists on various subjects.  I mostly love it for its grammar and spelling tips—although, I’m a little biased, as its style is reminiscent of the approach I used when I taught grammar.  This post on spelling had me laughing out loud (ROTFL).  This is my favorite:

I wrote two posts this week, mentioning poetry and screenwriting.  If these areas are foreign to you, the folks over at Writer’s Relief can shed some light on them.  Learn some poetry lingo here, and get some screenwriting resources here.

At Editorial Anonymous, learn a thing or two about deciphering those rejection letters with this tongue-in-cheek post.

As I discussed earlier this week, when I came to the end of last week’s fight to finish my manuscript, I realized my original title no longer worked.  Desperate to be done with the thing and eager to apply the icing on my literary cupcake (what??), I, naturally, turned to the Internet for assistance with titles.  I found some help at Writing-World.com, Writer’s Digest, and eHow.


Blogger sisters Lisa and Laura Roecker give some of Nancy Coffey Literary agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe‘s tips on synopses.

WordServe Literary‘s Rachelle Gardner offers some advice on perfecting that elevator pitch.

As well, FinePrint Literary‘s Janet Reid details what a writer needs to have ready when looking for an agent for fiction, memoir, and nonfiction with this straightforward list on her blog.

Last but not least, The Last Will of Moira Leahy author Therese Walsh of Writer Unboxed asks her agent, Elisabeth Weed of Weed Literary, about voice—something not easily defined, yet something every agent seeks.


Over at Fiction City, my writer buddy, Lisa Katzenberger, asks: How Soon Do You Start Critiques?

Here, Robert McCrum of The Observer talks plagiarism and lists some famous examples of authors’ works which have been accused of it.

In this guest post on Rachelle Gardner‘s Rants & Ramblings, editor Chuck Sambuchino asks, “Would you pay more for an agent?” And many weigh in…


I shall keep these three posts close by during this query (and, hopefully, submission) process:

Yes, that's "Monk."


Like to read?  Like to blog?  Here, Thomas Nelson PublishersMichael Hyatt tells how to get your hands on free books and get your name out there by reviewing them.

Don’t forget to enter my contest here on the blog.  Click here for details on my easy-peasy contest, and see how you can win a brand-new 2010 Guide to Literary Agents!


I’m with COCO.

What a Dining Room Table Has to Do with Poetry

As a wedding present, my grandmother (“Nanny”) gave me her dining room set.

A few months before I got married (in 2006), she moved in with my parents; her health had declined, and the two-story century home she’d lived in for 60 years became too much for her to handle on her own.

Taken at my last visit to Nanny's house, before it sold.

A few water rings adorned the table’s surface, and the chair cushions—brittle with over 40 years of wear—needed to be reupholstered; but the china closet was in pristine condition—so we loaded the behemoth into the moving van on our way to Georgia.

Because my husband and I moved into a house in the Old Dominion and now have space for the rest of it, the dining room set became one of the top items of interest during my parents’ purging spree. Over Christmas, my dad gave it a major face-lift, and the pieces are now reunited after three and a half years.

Looking at the set, in its final resting place of our dining room, I can’t help but wonder the kinds of things it saw during its stay in Willoughby, Ohio.

As Nanny can no longer tell the tales (she too lay in her final resting place), the whole thing reminds me of one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Dr. George Bilgere.

Award-winning poet and John Carroll University professor, Dr. George Bilgere. Photo by Gary E. Porter

One of my (favorite) college professors and the author of five poetry books, Bilgere uncovers his family’s history in “The Table.” Written in beautiful prose, “The Table” is not lengthy—and you’re truly missing out if you don’t read it. <—No excuses—even if you’re “not a poetry person.”

I have used it when teaching poetry in previous years, and although the poem doesn’t tell my family’s story, it strikes me every time I read it.

…and today, it reminds me of how fortunate I feel to be able to give my table a whole new history.

No, this isn't it - but I wonder what this one would have to say.