#WeekendRewind: How To Master Show, Don’t Tell

I’ve noticed my current work in progress, Love Poetry, has been bogged down with a lot of “telling.” Looks like I could use a refresher course…

We all could.

K.M. Allan

Ah, show, don’t tell. One of the most spouted pieces of writing advice, and one of the most confusing.

When I first heard of it, I had no idea what it meant. Surely writing that my character “rose from her chair and walked across the room” was showing? Yes? No? Maybe? No. It’s a no. A hard no. It’s “telling” the reader what the character is doing (and in a very uninspired way).

Showing is using your words to create a picture in the reader’s mind. It’s using words to put them in the moment, to allow them to feel as if they are the characters. That it’s them “pulling their tired bones from the stiff seat and shuffling across the dusty floorboards”. It’s all about forging a connection between the reader and the characters. And it isn’t as confusing as you think.

How To Master Show, Don’t Tell

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What to Write for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is coming soon, and I’m considering taking the dive once again.

I don’t know why I continue to torture myself like this…

But I haven’t done any kind of planning or brainstorming, and although I have I plenty of works in progress (including a novella I’m considering giving a total revamp) half-baked ideas, and a current novel I haven’t yet started on, I want this potential NaNoWriMo novel to be 100% new.

Nothing I’ve started and stopped and started again…and stopped again.

Nothing that was once a passion but, after a year, has now become an afterthought.

Something my editor brain won’t overthink to the point that it’s debilitating.

Something I can approach as an adventure rather than potentially the next great American novel (that will only disappoint me when I read it again).

Something absolutely brand spanking new.

But what?

Maybe it’s because it’s almost Halloween, but I’m thinking of doing a ghost story. Nothing too scary, but something definitely spooky.

What do you think?

Tell me, what story should I write? I want to step out of my comfort zone a little. I’m sick of writing sad romance. Maybe a different genre will give me the boost I need to get to 50,000 words in one month for the first time ever!

It’s Worth the Mess: 3 Reasons to Keep Creating

Originally, today was supposed to be a Work in Progress Wednesday. I was going to post for you an excerpt from my current (and never-ending) WIP, Love Poetry, you were going to love it, I was going to be motivated to keep on writing and finish, and overall, it was going to be a happy day. Then I read the excerpt again…

Let’s just say I have a “mess” on my hands. A hot damn mess. Good thing I have Miss Candice here to encourage me to keep working on it.

Keep working, I shall. Check out her post if you, like me, are struggling with a messy project. 🙂

I came for the soup...

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly . . . until you can learn to do it well.” ~Zig Ziglar

have always been a believer that anything worth having is definitely worth fighting for. Having healthy relationships? Worth fighting for. Having security? Worth fighting for. Having victory in maintaining faith? Worth fighting for.

I could go on and I am sure that you could add several things to the ‘worth fighting for’ list. But one thing I have often lost the fight in (because I didn’t show up) was in learning new avenues of creating.

Why? Because more times than not I was afraid of failure. I wonder if you can relate.

The thing about being a creative person–the thing about being human–is that the beginnings of all of our successes begin in a mess. We don’t begin walking with elegant or confident gaits. We fall and we scuff…

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Waiting on the Day, Christmas Day — A Novella

October is just a week away, which means the holidays are quickly approaching, and I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of the holidays, my mind immediately goes to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans, specifically, Countdown

I’d like to revisit the story of Natasha, Mitchell, Renee, Bryan, Rita, and Antonio this year, but in a special way…

Bound together in a short, self-published novella kind of special way.

Ambitious given it’s already the end of September, and I haven’t even begun to tackle this monstrous beast! Will I have time when I’ve barely had time enough to write anything other than my name this year? And what about the cover? As graphically challenged as I am, who will do it (for little to no money), or will I save that money and keep it simple—a picture and some text would do, right?

I’m not sure of all the logistics yet, but one thing I do know is that the story IS written. And just this morning while lying in bed, I thought of a synopsis to go on the back cover…

Six friends. Six personal battles they must all face and conquer before one Christmas wedding.

Natasha and Mitchell have been in love since college, and finally they are ready to profess their love in front of all of their friends and family and God most of all on the most special day of the year, but will one hastened mistake derail the life they planned together before it even starts?

Bryan and Rita both have troublesome vices Renee is desperate to have them overcome before the year ends. For Bryan, it’s cursing like his drunkard, retired navy sailor grandfather. For Rita, it’s a lifetime of bad choice, usually involving the opposite sex. Will they finish the year in victory, or will the pressure to turn their lives around for the better be too great to handle?

Antonio is recently saved and struggles to come to terms with his new Christian life and the remnants of his past, sinful life in the form of his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child, who repeatedly finds ways to get under his skin. Will he find a peaceful balance, or will he backslide into despair before he discovers the exuberance of being a follower of Christ during the most wonderful time of the year?

All of these stories come to a head on THE day, the day when most people celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world. Christmas Day.

Will it be worth the wait?

If you’ve never read the original Countdown series, does this synopsis interest you? Would you want to read more? Would you want to read it in book form (more like Kindle form)? Let me know! I’m eager to get started. Christmas will be here before you know it!

The Struggle Is Real

I’m struggling, y’all. Struggling to find inspiration. Struggling to write something worth reading. Struggling to write anything that won’t get decimated when my trigger-happy finger presses the backspace key. I can’t even think of a good Monday’s #1MinFiction prompt. Hence why there hasn’t been one for the last two weeks.

I guess I’ve been busy. I got a new job editing “science-y” articles. I’m not a “science-y” person, and the “science-y” lingo is frying my brain. Who knows if that’s the true reason for this current bout with writer’s block, but that’s the excuse I’m going with for now.

Then again, I don’t really want to use it as an excuse, because I actually like my job… A LOT. Some nights, I sit up and think, “Wow, I actually made it. I actually found a job in my field. And it has benefits. Paid vacation. Paid holiday. An optional work from home week for the Fourth of July! All that money I wasted, er, paid (am still paying) for a degree actually means something now! Shoot, maybe I’ll get my degree framed. Maybe I’ll hang it up on the wall!” And it’s nights like those when I feel most inspired to write again, and I post encouraging tidbits like this.

But the fiction has been few and far between, the poetry even less. I don’t know why that is, I don’t know why the creativity in me is so spent, especially when the ideas have all been there. It’s the writing, the writing . The turning it into an actual story or poem, a piece of art (because what are writers if not artists?) that just can’t come together for me.

Recently, I received an email from Camp NaNoWriMo. Yes, camp is starting again, and I want to use this year’s camp to find my drive for writing again. Writing something, anything, even if it’s just 100 words a day, even if those 100 words are total rubbish, at least they’ll be rubbish that I wrote and rubbish that I was confident enough about to hit publish for. And no, I won’t wait until to July to get started. Any more waiting, and I’ll just talk myself right out of doing. I’ve been talking myself out of doing a lot of things for far too long. That ends today…

2018 A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal: A Drabble about Tags

Almost three months ago exactly, I was deep in my 7 Things to Do Before 2018 list, on a mission to organize my blog before the new year. It was during this spree of deleting and restructuring that a gem fell right into my lap. Sadly, I had to wait until spring before I could tell anyone about it…

Despite being eager to reveal my 2018 A to Z Challenge theme since last Christmas, I come to you with my theme reveal a day late and a dollar short…

A 100-Word Story to Introduce My 2018 A to Z Challenge Theme

Delete. One page down. I think I deserve a pat on the back. Productivity score: 1. Procrastination: 0.

This blog clean-up will be a breeze! Only—I squint at the screen—173 more pages to go.

Procrastination creeping in. Why do I have so many tags? Half are for posts that don’t exist—wiped away in a previous purge—most have only been used once…

Like “100-word story.” Why? When I’ve written at least 100?

I select 20 more, drift the mouse toward “Bulk Delete,” when something catches my eye.

Accessory to murder… Only one story.

Hmm… How about another?

Have you figured it out yet?

The prompts are the tags!

Yes, from # to A to Z, I have literally thousands of tags in my blog archives, most of which have lost their companion stories over the years, others that have only ever had one…

Like “100-word story,” for which, before this post, surprisingly, only one story has ever made the cut.

So, starting this April, I’ll be giving some of my most interesting “lonely” tags another reason to shine on the blog.

Would you like to read more stories about becoming an accessory to murder? Or maybe you prefer to get lost in the Bermuda Triangle? Hell, let’s be serious here— you’re just waiting on the impending doom of a zombie apocalypse!

Well, all of those and more are coming to you in just 100 words (so the tag will have even more posts)!

See you in April!

How to Survive Two Weeks Without TV or Internet When You Uproot Your Life to Move to a New City for a Job Opportunity…

Step 1. Pick up a book.

Step 2. Read the book.

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Contemporary Black Poetry

Welcome to Week 4 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.
This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy writing poems inspired by the Black Arts Movement? Were your poems angry? Defiant? Did your poems protest racism and the oppression of your people? Did you write your poems for and to your people? Did you “stick it to the man”? Did you put your fist in the air and shout, “Black Power”?

This past week of BlaPoWriMo was quite interesting because it coincided with the release of Black Panther, which was revolutionary itself! I swear, I didn’t plan that, but it’s wonderful how those things work out sometimes. 😉

By the way, if you missed last week’s Black Arts theme, don’t fret. Remember, these weekly themes are only optional, so if you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the Black Arts Movement, or last week’s era of the Harlem Renaissance, or even our first era of slavery, feel free to do so! Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!
Now, let’s journey on to the next era: TODAY!

How can we best describe contemporary black poetry? That is, black poetry of today. While we’ve seen the cultural artistry continue from many poets since the Black Arts Movement, including from some of my favorites—Gwendolyn Brooks, Toi Dererricotte, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton—in recent years, some have begun to question whether black literature, as we’ve come to study it, still exists today.

African-American literature was the literature of a distinct historical period, namely, the era of constitutionally sanctioned segregation known as Jim Crow. . . . Like it or not, African-American literature was a Jim Crow phenomenon, which is to say, speaking from the standpoint of a post-Jim Crow world, African-American literature is history. While one can (and students of American literature certainly should) write about African-American literature as an object of study, one can no longer write African-American literature, any more than one can currently write Elizabethan literature.

Kenneth W. Warren, “Does African-American Literature Exist?” The Chronicle of Higher Education (2011)

Did it die with the Black Arts Movement? With the fall of Jim Crow? Does it deserve to still have its own section in the bookstores? Is it even its own genre today? Are we still “fighting the good fight”? Does our art still provide a voice to the disenfranchised African American? Do the characteristics of today’s contemporary black literature make it stand out specifically as black literature, or is it just American literature written by black people? Should I even continue with Black Poetry Writing Month next year? Is it a waste of time? A redundancy?
For our final week of BlaPoWriMo, let’s prove that there’s still a need for black poetry/literature in today’s generation.

There is still so much to talk about. Whether it’s politically—i.e. Black Lives Matter, this generation’s Civil Rights Movement against police brutality and the justice system’s unfair targeting of people of color. Or socially—the success of movies like Black Panther shows how essential it is for blacks to see themselves represented on the big screen in roles other than the subservient or criminal ones we’re used to seeing. Or financially—despite America being one of the richest countries in the world, many blacks still live in poverty, struggling to survive paycheck-to-paycheck, resorting to drug abuse and criminal behavior, etc. And what’s wrong with going back to the past every once in a while? The neo slave narrative, a genre all its own did just that, allowing us to revisit and deal with our past traumas in a fictional/poetic way.

Black poetry/literature may not be what it used to, but there’s still a purpose for it. So continue the discussion. This week and moving forward. And to get you started, here’s a poem that’s sure to find a spot in every black person’s heart, for those who do and who [embarrassingly] don’t know how to play Spades…

We Should Make a Documentary About Spades

And here is all we’ll need: a card deck, quartets of sun people
Of the sort found in black college dormitories, some vintage
Music, indiscriminate spirits, fried chicken, some paper,

A writing utensil, and a bottomless Saturday. We should explore
The origins of a derogatory word like spade as well as the word
For feeling alone in polite company. And also the implications
Of calling someone who is not your brother or sister,

Brother or Sister. So little is known of our past, we can imagine
Damn near anything. When I say maybe slaves held Spades
Tournaments on the anti-cruise ships bound for the Colonies,
You say when our ancestors were cooped on those ships

They were not yet slaves. Our groundbreaking film should begin
With a low-lit den in the Deep South and the deep fried voice
Of somebody’s grandmother holding smoke in her mouth
As she says, “The two of Diamonds trumps the two of Spades

In my house.” And at some point someone should tell the story
Where Jesus and the devil are Spades partners traveling
The juke joints of the 1930s. We could interview my uncle Junior
And definitely your skinny cousin Mary and any black man

Sitting at a card table wearing shades. Who do you suppose
Would win if Booker T and MLK were matched against Du Bois
And Malcolm X in a game of Spades? You say don’t talk
Across the table. Pay attention to the suits being played.

The object of the game is to communicate invisibly
With your teammate. I should concentrate. Do you suppose
We are here because we are lonely in some acute diasporafied
Way? This should be explored in our film about Spades.

Because it is one of the ways I am still learning what it is
To be black, tonight I am ready to master Spades. Four players
Bid a number of books. Each team adds the bids
Of the two partners, and the total is the number of books

That team must try to win. Is that not right? This is a game
That tests the boundary between mathematics and magic,
If you ask me. A bid must be intuitive like the itchiness
Of the your upper lip before you sip strange whiskey.

My mother did not drink, which is how I knew something
Was wrong with her, but she held a dry spot at the table
When couples came to play. It’s a scene from my history,
But this probably should not be mentioned in our documentary

About Spades. Renege is akin to the word for the shame
You feel watching someone else’s humiliation. Slapping
A card down must be as dramatic as hitting the face of a drum
With your palm, not hitting the face of a drum with a drumstick.

You say there may be the sort of outrage induced
By liquor, trash talk, and poor strategy, but it will fade
The way a watermark left on a table by a cold glass fades.
I suspect winning this sort of game makes you feel godly.

I’m good and ready for who ever we’re playing
Against tonight. I am trying to imagine our enemy.
I know you are not my enemy. You say there are no enemies
In Spades. Spades is a game our enemies do not play.

Terrance Hayes

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Black Art” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Black Arts Movement

Welcome to Week 3 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy writing your Harlem Renaissance-inspired poems? Did you have an explosion of creativity? Did you use other genres like art or music to inspire your writing? Did you improvise your work, showing off the innate genius that has always resided within you?

Did you get sick in the middle of the week like I did and miss out on all the fun? Well, you’re in luck. Remember, these weekly themes are only optional, so if you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the era of the Harlem Renaissance, or even go back another week to revisit the era of slavery, feel free to do so! Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!

Now, let’s journey on to the next era: The Black Arts Movement!

The Black Arts Movement began in 1960 and lasted through about 1975. These years were troubling politically, especially for blacks in America. This was also the era of the Civil Rights Movement, when leaders and outspoken orators like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X rose to speak out for the freedoms of their marginalized black brothers and sisters. There were sit-ins and marches, boycotts, peaceful and violent protests. Black freedom seekers were often sprayed down with firehoses, attacked with police dogs, their churches and homes bombed by white supremacists.

As a result, blacks became angrier, more militant and radical in their activism. This decade also saw the birth of the Black Power Movement and the notorious Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. With all of this going on, it would be foolish to limit the Black Arts Movement to just that, an “arts” movement. No, it was just as much political and social as it was artistic.

The Black Arts Movement is radically opposed to any concept of the artist that alienates him from his community. Black Art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept. As such, it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America . . . The Black Arts and the Black Power concept both relate broadly to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood. Both concepts are nationalistic.

—Larry Neal (quote pulled from the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Second Edition, edited by Henry Louis Gate, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay

The Black Arts Movement is without a doubt one of my favorite artistic and literary movements.

Not only because it was pioneered by black writers like myself, but because it was so unapologetically BLACK! These were people who were FED UP, and they didn’t give a flying fuck about political correctness. They were going to provide a voice to the revolution, a voice to the people who had been beaten and shut down by white supremacy. They were going to fight by any means necessary for the liberation of black people in America. Slavery might have ended 100 years prior, but they were by no means free…yet.

Likewise, the poetry produced in this era was revolutionary. Famous poets of the time include Amiri Baraka, Etheridge Knight, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and many others. The poems of the Black Arts Movement were simple, their messages made plain as the words written on the page. These writings weren’t meant to prove to whites that blacks were competent, or could understand sophisticated literary tropes. Nah, writers of the Black Arts Movement were done kissing up to Uncle Sam! Their poems were a communication to their fellow African Americans… Rise up. Be proud of who you are, of what color you are. Stand. Fight. Poems were usually performative, almost like what spoken word or SLAM is today. Usually written in free verse, the poems were very conversational, often musical, and adapted the vernacular characteristics of “black mass speech,” like a preacher’s sermon, for example.
One of my favorite poets of this time period was Amiri Baraka, who recently passed away in 2014.

His poem, appropriately titled “Black Art” sums up what this literary, artistic, social, and political movement was all about. To fully understand the scope of this powerful poem, you really must hear it, which is why I’m switching things up and giving you an audio poem to inspire your week of writing Black Art. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Black Art” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Decoding Poetry: #BlaPoWriMo, ‘The Young Ones'(Poem)

For BlaPoWriMo, my friend Ericajean shares her thoughts on Sterling A. Brown’s “The Young Ones.”

Looking specifically at the lines, “It’s as far as they’ll get / For many a year; / Cotton brought them / and will keep them here,” she raises two questions: What brought us, and what is keeping us here?

A question I would like to add is: What is “here”?

What are your thoughts? Please respond directly on Ericajean’s post, as comments here will be disabled.

–N

The Write Web

assorted colors of threads by Tim Savage

Welcome back fellow bloggers! It is BlaPoWriMo time again and this time we are traveling to the Harlem Renaissance era.

Today’s poem to decode is by Sterling A. Brown. He has deveoted his life to the development of authentic black folk literature. He was also a poet, critic, and teacher at Howard University for 40 years.

The Young Ones(July 1938)

With cotton to the doorstep

No place to play.

No time: What with chopping cotton

All the day.

In the broken down car

They jounce up and down

Pretend to be steering

On the way to town.

It’s as far as they’ll get

For many a year;

Cotton brought them

And will keep them here.

The spare-ribbed yard dog

Has gone away;

The kids just as hungry,

Have to stay.

In the two-roomed shack

Their mammy is lying,

With a little new brother

On her arm crying.

-Sterling A. Brown

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