Improper Words

Today’s writing exercise is a mind workout. It’s a simple process, that for me really opens my mind to new word choice possibilities.

Here we go:

  • First grab a dictionary.
  • Flip to any page you want.
  • Randomly choose a word from the page.
  • Now, use the word in a sentence, but change the part of speech it normally is to another one. So, if the word is a noun, use it as an adjective, or a preposition.
  • Do any part of speech, but try to maintain a similar meaning or at least a meaning you would expect that word to have in the new form.

Colors are a good example. You hear about a leaf greening, or a face yellowing, what would be oranging?

How about the sun oranging the street?

What about the word corolla – a noun meaning the petals of a flower?

What if a building had no windows on the first floor, but the higher up you looked the more windows there were and the tighter together they were built? What if they seemed to curve together and make up the whole top of the building. Could the windows be corolla windows?

Not only is it a word that evokes specific imagery but the vowels smooth over from one word to another. Corolla windows.

Words are limitless.

I always joke with Justin that my English degree certifies me to change the language at my will.

The truth is (I love this topic, if you can’t tell) language changes by anyone’s will.

Obviously, I think there is importance in the proper way of writing and using the language -proper spelling, grammar and all that, but I think about how fun it is to manipulate the language as well and really-how important it is too. Creatively changing the language to meet the needs of a writer wanting to express a very specific idea makes using words in uncommon ways important, as an exercise of the creative mind and a practice for writers pushing envelopes like e.e. Cummings and Shakespeare.

What are some of your favorite uncommon, improper uses of words?


Also, check out a review for my poetry collection by Michelle Proulx! A big thank you goes out to her for reading and letting people know about it.


Reification: A Real Tool, Maybe a Hammer

Today we are looking at reification, which is taking an abstraction and treating it like a concrete. It is similar to personification. Personification allows you to attach human qualities to anything, whether they be abstract or not, whereas, reification allows you to make an object out of any abstract thing.

Personification example: That sun you use to draw in elementary school in the corner of the paper, large rays and cool shades. (Well that’s not a literary example, I guess… Here; Even the sun had to wear shades to keep cool. -terrible, but I love it.)

The sun (as a concrete object) does not really wear shades and it is so far from being “cool” but attaching these human traits and objects, even addressing it as he, allows him to be like a person or personified.

Reification example: I held fate in my little fingers, like a dime, in-fact, fate was a dime, my last dime, and I slipped it in a machine, watched the wheels roll on and on with no spectacular ending. (Might be a bit cliché, but I really like that sentence).

Fate, in that sentence, is made into a concrete object, something the narrator can hold, manipulate.

Can you tell the difference?

It’s a very interesting process, choosing what objects symbolize certain abstractions. Is hate a sweater you throw on, bundled, literally get swallowed up in the threads?

Not only is the use of reifications useful in poetry, when creating concrete, tangible moments out of raw feeling is often a goal, but using them in stories is a great benefit as well. Within a novel, using a concrete object to equal an abstraction can help provide clues to the reader as to what is going on or being felt.

Here are a list of abstract words, try making a list of a few objects that could be a concrete counterpoint, a reification:


Haiku For You

Sometimes, in the bustle of the holidays, we all need a moment to slow down, a brief second to restore your energy. What better way than to read or write a haiku? The haiku poem is a style based off of 3 lines and 17 syllables. The first line consisting of 5 syllables, the second 7 and the third back to 5. It is very short and the restraint makes each word’s importance that much greater. The other importance in a haiku is the emphasis on nature and the season. Another version is even shorter consisting of a 3-5-3 line pattern. Here is a winter haiku just for you:

A cardinal waits

Winter boughs bend in the snow

He folds wings for warmth.

Take a moment to breathe in the rush of the season and read or write a short haiku.

The Importance of Being Edited

When I first started saying aloud that I wanted to self-publish, I received quite a bit of advice from others. One friend in particular, who has traveled the self-publishing path very successfully, was able to steer me in the directions I wanted to go. I was able to navigate the sites I wanted to use much easier with her advice. Among that advice she gave me was the edit, edit, edit rule. Which is basically edit your work yourself, have a friend edit or, and the best, hire an editor. I decided to edit myself. I know the importance of editing, I know how crucial it is to scan and re-scan writing for all the many errors that can be so easily overlooked. I based my reasoning for editing myself on the fact that my book was a collection of poetry, not a novel. I knew that if it were a novel I would hire an editor, but I did not realize how many mistakes I would overlook in poetry.

I have words like “th” or “thr” instead of “the” and “though” instead of “through” and every mistake further strips the readers confidence that I am a good writer. I knew that, but for some reason didn’t follow not only my friends advice, but my own rules as a writer as well. I think for the most part I edit my own work fairly well, so what went wrong?

Excitement. Anticipation. The readiness to publish and the unintended too brief scanning before clicking submit.

So, my advice, stifle your excitement of publishing (I know it’s hard) and thoroughly review your work, not just once, but several times over, especially if you do not hire an editor (which for anything novel length is the only way to go). I still stand behind editing yourself or with friend for poetry (or any similar works -maybe cookbooks or short stories). Maybe schedule a weekend or two to simply edit, so it’s marked on the calendar and you have made a commitment to your work and yourself.

One silver lining I have is I am able to re-submit my book with no interruptions to selling and no need to pull it off sites, and once the resubmitted version is accepted and uploaded it transfers over seamlessly -making only the initial copies typo-ed. Ah, the world of print on demand!

I feel ashamed in myself for allowing the mistakes to run by me unnoticed and I hope by reading this you, any of you future self-publishers heed the warnings of my experience the way I should have heeded my friends.

With every experience we gain a better insight in which to venture into our next experience. Although I am shammed by my mistakes, I am proud of how much I’ve grown and look forward to all my future endeavors, welcoming the inevitable future mistakes.

We grow, we learn, we grow more.

Createspace Upload

Today I am working on creating the print version of A Sense of Light or Darkness. I am using Createspace powered through Amazon and it is a very user friendly tool. I uploaded a .docx of my manuscript that had errors in it and when the program launched the interior viewer, it was easy to see what the errors were. I downloaded the template for the book size I wanted  I readjusted the text in Word. After finalizing the document I re-uploaded and reviewed the interior a second time. With some other adjustments and a couple other uploads to ensure I had the pages on the sides I wanted them on (like the title page I wanted on the right side), I was done. Then comes uploading the cover image. Again the site gives you everything you would need to know to upload your own image easily, or you can chose to design one through them (good option if you still want a do it yourself option but are not graphically/artistically inclined).

I will update you more as the book is reviewed by the site and becomes available.

Poetry Collection Coming Along

I wanted to take a few minutes to give you all some information on my poetry collection, it is definitely coming along well. I have about seven more poems to write before I reach the number of poems I would like to have in the collection and I have started one that might be the center of the book as it is much longer and more complex than the rest. It also shares the central ideas I want to focus on in the book. The title of my collection seems to fit it more perfectly each day. I have also begun work on the cover art. If you have read anything about self-publishing, every source advises against creating your own book cover. As scared as I am to attempt it, I think I just might. I have started a draft of the cover art and I love the idea. But, I will say this decision to go against every self-publishers advice is not without a ton of research and some experience in graphic design. Although I certainly do not know graphic design as well as many others, I did take courses in website design and art. I think with as much research as I do and between my comfort level and my boyfriends talent with design programs like Photoshop I will be able to create a cover that is striking to potential readers.

One issue I think I might have is simply that I am writing poetry rather than a novel. Everyone gives advice for writing a novel, the book covers for certain demographics are all very similar. Take Twilight for example, (though probably not the first to have the design) the book began selling so well that many other books in the realm of young adult fantasy follow a very similar cover design. The dark cover, a flash of color, a short title seems to catch the readers eye, or at least clue the reader into what type of book the cover belongs to. With poetry however, the covers differ a bit more. I looked up the current top 100 poetry books and the covers seemed to range from a picture of the author, a landscape image, or an urban image or a blank cover with the title. Each seemed to be grounded in neutral (nature) colors and  smaller font. Researching the top selling poetry books helps me determine what is working in the genre, what seems to grab a readers attention, but because poetry is the genre rather than divided by the subject, it is important to portray the subject or the tone through the cover. It seems it may be harder for readers to distinguish between collections of poetry, unless the cover is absolute in it’s portrayal of the contents.

Here’s to charging ahead 🙂

Guide to Poetry: Terms and Forms

I probably should have written this article before my villanelle post, but I was excited and exasperated by the villanelle at the time and wanted to share, but, it is due time for me to give you all a poetry run down. I’m sure for some people most of this will be a refresher, however I tried to pick a couple obscure terms that might be new and useful.

Poetic Terms

  • Alliteration- Repetition of initial sound in two or more words within a line
  • Assonance- Repetition of vowel sounds in two or more words within a line
  • Allusion- Reference to something outside of the poem
  • Ambiguity- Suggestion of more than one meaning
  • Anaphora- Repetition of word or phrase at the beginning of lines
  • Animism- Giving animals human characteristics
  • Antithesis- Balance or contrast of one thing against another
  • Apostrophe- Direct address to something/someone not present
  • Blank Verse- Unrhymed, metered (iambic pentameter) verse
  • Caesura- A natural pause within a line
  • Cliché- Overly familiar words, phrases or metaphors
  • Connotation- A word’s figurative, associated and nuanced meanings
  • Consonance- Repetition of consonant sounds within a line
  • Couplet/Tercet/Quatrain/Sestet/Octave- Stanzas consisting of two/three/four/six/eight lines
  • Denotation- Word’s dictionary definition
  • Diction- Word choice
  • End-Stopped Line- Line whose end corresponds with a natural pause (comma or period)
  • Enjambed Line- Line that ends without a natural pause
  • Foot- Unit of meter
  • Free Verse- Unrhymed, unmetered verse
  • Hyperbole- Exaggeration/ Overstatement
  • Image- Representation of a sense through concrete description
  • Internal Rhyme- Rhyme that occurs anywhere within lines
  • Irony- Discrepancy between what is said and what is meant
  • Line- Unit of poetry
  • Line Break- End of a line
  • Litotes- Understatement (often delivered by saying the opposite of what is meant)
  • Masculine Rhyme/Feminine Rhyme/Triple Rhyme- one syllable rhyme/ two syllable rhyme/ three syllable rhyme
  • Metaphor/Simile- Comparison of two unlike things / Simile uses “like” or “as”
  • Meter- Pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
  • Metonymy- Word that substitutes for a thing associated with it. (the crown = the king)
  • Narrative- Including a story
  • Near-rhyme/Off-rhyme/Slant-rhyme- Inexact rhyme
  • Onomatopoeia- Words who imitate their meaning
  • Persona- Fictional, mythical or historic speaker
  • Personification- Giving human qualities to an inanimate object or the abstract
  • Point of View- Perspective of the speaker (first, second or third)
  • Prose Poem- Poetry in block or paragraph form
  • Refrain- Repetition of one or more lines at intervals in a poem
  • Repetition- Reiterating a word or line within a poem
  • Rhyme- Repetition of sounds
  • Rhyme Scheme- Pattern or sequence of rhyme; first sound represented by “a” the second with “b” etc…
  • Rhythm- Pattern made from stresses and pauses and their placement
  • Stanza- Unit of poetry made up of two or more lines, separated by space
  • Symbol- Something that represents another thing
  • Synecdoche- A part that substitutes for the whole
  • Synesthesia- Description of one sense using another
  • Voice- Combination of diction, syntax, images, rhythm and sound

All of these devices are common in poetry, however the point in creative writing is to be creative and use common things in new and unique ways. So, if you don’t write poetry, experiment using these devices in your own way. Maybe, in a short story alliteration in a particular part will extenuate the ambiance.

I hope to delve a little further into some of these terms and deffinetly more forms of poetry in future posts. Until then, if you have any questions, suggestions, or if you have a specific topic you would like me to expand on let me know -leave a comment, or email me- and I will be glad to post it.