Sunday, February 17, 2019

7 Things I Learned from Writing Poetry

This post is not a how-to guide for writing poetry. Rather, it is a compilation of a few things I have learned while writing poetry. I wouldn’t go so far as to say any of these things are rules but rather a couple guidelines that I have followed during the writing process.

I wasn’t always a poet. In fact, I like to claim that if it weren’t for a certain philosophy class I took in uni, I wouldn’t have taken an interest in poetry at all. As I struggled to understand modernism and postmodernism and why even philosophers don’t understand it (seriously, why???), I wrote a very odd performance poem about madness.

Thus, my interest in writing poetry was born.

Sure, I probably would’ve come to write poetry in a different way, seeing as how I took a creative writing class the next semester, but I like to think fondly back to that ridiculous poem. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about reading poetry and certainly a lot about writing it. Here are just a few facts about the latter.

1) Not all poetry is nonfiction.

This little tidbit I picked up from my creative writing class. Poetry is tied to emotions and metaphors, but that doesn’t mean you have to experienced them to write about them. When I wrote “Puddle”, I wrote about the melancholy change that comes with nature in comparison to a break up. But here’s the thing—I’ve never dated before much less had a break up.

So how did I write the poem? I just made it up.

Novels in verse even come in many different forms from contemporary fiction (Saving Red) to historical fiction (Blood, Water, Paint) and from classics (Paradise Lost) to memoir (Brown Girl Dreaming). Stand alone poems are no different. Some of them may be fact while others pure imagination.

2) Metaphors are fun to experiment with.

They’re probably one of my favorite parts of poetry. Comparisons that might sound forced or confusing in prose make for some excellent poetry, and readers don’t need everything spelled out for them. Though I still strive for simplicity with each poem, I like being able to overlay lines or phrases with multiple meanings and explore metaphors by asking questions like “How can I say this in a way that’s not cliché?” and “What shows and evokes emotion in the reader without outright stating it?”

For example, when writing “Heartbeat”, I played with emotions like unease and fear and mashed them up with imagery from Mount Saint Helens with its lakes where pine trees still lie beneath the water and the sulfur pools from Yellowstone National Park.

please don’t ask me to relax, for still I
feel the avalanche, lifeblood of this sphere with its
veins of ash and fire pulsing to drumbeats
in the deep
—excerpt from “Heartbeat”

3) Structured poems are challenging but rewarding.

I’m not much of one for sonnets (too sappy), and I still can’t write a villanelle (help!), but every now and then I try my hand at something other than my usual free verse. Typically, I’ll write something in iambic pentameter, with ten syllables in each line and the stress being on every second syllable. It’s got a nice rhythm.

The hardest part is finding words that fit the meter and still have the poem make sense. Sometimes, I’ll play around with the order of words and see if I can rearrange the sentence and still have it make sense.

My friends and I, we’d build small forts to hide
pretending tales were life with every stride.
Like sweets, the sap did cling to child’s small hands
and time blew through the trees with open fronds.
—excerpt from “Pine Trees”

4) Even free verse poetry has its guidelines.

I’ve been told
in many a book review
that writing poetry
is not just
hitting enter.

Which is why I’m not going to write this whole section and pretend it’s a free verse poem. It’s not. Even though free verse poems can be vastly different from structured ones, they still differ from prose in complexity and imagery and spacing, you name it.

My biggest struggle is with line length and whether to break apart certain phrases or keep them together. Even more recently, as I read and record poems for my monthly posts, I’ve come to discover just how important rhythm, punctuation, and line length are for ease of reading. “Small Talk” isn’t a bad poem visually if I may say so myself, but man was it hard to read aloud with so few pauses! If you happen to find my poems with more commas or pauses, it’s for reading ease.

5) I can’t force myself to write a poem.

A lot of people say that you can’t wait for inspiration to strike, that you just have to write. And I agree for the most part. Except when it comes to poetry. I’ve tried forcing myself to write poems instead of just letting the lines flow. Each time, I’ve wanted to set the final result on fire.

Maybe that means I’m still an amateur at writing poetry. Maybe not.

Either way, I usually have to wait for the poem to come to me. Inspiration takes many different forms, but for me, more often than not, it’s nature. If you haven’t already noticed, a lot of my poems tend to be nature poems. That and I tend to write the best poems in my head while I’m exercising. All my best exercising I do hiking through the woods, biking to work, or jogging through open fields.

6) Even poems may require multiple drafts.

I never post a poem or send one out for publication without first running it by my lovely critique partner, Faith. Back in university, we used to tear each other’s poems apart a lot more—maybe there’s something about reading them in person that makes it easier to examine or maybe we’ve both gotten better at writing. Now we continue to review each other’s work, from blog posts to poems, and I find it’s helpful not only to have somebody make sure I used the write word but also to ensure I made sense.

7) Poetry is meant for sharing.

The more I read and write poetry, the more I come to understand this one. Poetry isn’t just meant to be read quietly in a living room or alone in a sunny field. It’s meant to be shared and discussed. As I mentioned when I attended my first book reading/poetry night, sharing poetry with a group and hearing their favorite poems helped me better understand my readers. I also like it when I’m reading and a family member is around and I can share a line or maybe an entire poem with them. It makes reading that much more enjoyable.

Let’s chat! Any fellow poets out there? What’s your take on writing poetry? Reading it? What’s the last poem you wrote/read? Links welcome!


Literary references: Sonya Sones’ Saving Red, Joy McCullough’s Blood, Water, Paint, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Pre-Ordering, Boarding the Hype Train, & Letting it Pass

If you haven’t already guessed, I kinda like reading. Says the person who read 100 books last year. But I have a confession to make—I don’t actually buy a lot of books. For numerous reasons, though I’ll briefly touch on a few. I move a lot and books are heavy. I can’t exactly afford to spend all my income on books, shelves, and secret passageways let alone preorders.

Instead, I tend to frequent the library, which is another post for another time (see A Guide to Getting Lost in Your Local Library). In a way, I wish I could support the new releases and the publishing community more, but I give what I can. I volunteer, check out books, befriend librarians, write book reviews, and make lists of books to buy.

Whether you’re like me or not, here’s a quick comparison of the trends in the book buying world and how they influence readers like me. Because of the nature of this post, I will briefly acknowledge but not be discussing advanced reader copies (ARCs) and old classics.

Pre-Ordering your Personal Copy

Want to make sure you get that book you’ve been waiting for? Secure your copy now and buy it ahead of time!

Pros: supporting the author and the publishing world, bragging rights, and shiny new books!
Cons: high cost for hardcovers and shipping, sooooooo sloooooooow, what if I don’t like it, few people know about said book, and why did I order this again?

Can we find a middle ground?

Maybe… not. At least not for me anyway. Even when I know I have enough money to pre-order a book, more often than not, I don’t know if I’m going to have the same address when the book comes out.

I can only remember pre-ordering two books: Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands, #2) and A Thousand Perfect Notes. I only pre-ordered them because I could afford them, because I knew I could wait six to eight months without moving to another country, and because I trusted the authors. That’s a lot of requirements for an avid bookworm.

But I’m pretty sure my local library pre-ordered several books because when I spoke with one of the librarians, she mentioned how she bought a bunch of young adult books and couldn’t wait to put them out. So I waited… and waited… and a lot of them were displayed around their release dates. Thank you, dear librarians!

Jumping on the (Slightly Fast) Hype Train

This bit can be fun albeit slightly dangerous.

Pros: great conversations, you don’t have to wait as long for all the books, all the hype, and finding readers with favorite characters/books in common.
Cons: the factions/ships have already been established, potential spoilers, potential disagreement over hype, when does the next book come out, and what on earth is everybody talking about?

Can we find a middle ground?

Probably. Sometimes, I like to wait a bit for the hype train to see how far it goes, then I can judge it for myself later. The only thing is, I don’t always agree with the hype. Sometimes I don’t think the hype is worth it, or other times, I have less hype for one book than another.

I started reading The Hunger Games after the movie came out, and while the trilogy isn’t necessarily my favorite, I still think they’re pretty good. Similarly, I started A Series of Unfortunate Events, but didn’t finish reading the books until the first season came out. Now that the third season is here, I’m slightly obsessed and a little concerned when I go to work and have to stock the sugar bowls.

If you’re feeling Dauntless, go for it! Jump on the hype train!

Waiting for the Entire Series to Come Out

Why torture yourself with reading a book that ends on a cliffhanger and a sequel that doesn’t come out until next year when you can torture yourself by not reading any of them until they are all out?

Pros: better chance of getting matching covers for books in a series and binge reading!
Cons: SPOILERS are everywhere, the hype train is probably long gone, and will the author ever finish writing the series so I can buy it already?

Can we find a middle ground?

I usually lean more toward two extremes—getting a book when it first comes out or waiting for the entire series. Sometimes, I’m incredibly patient—I’m actually waiting for all the books in Arc of Scythe and the Shades of Magic graphic novels to come out so I can binge read them. Other times, I’m incredibly impatient—when is Patrick Rothfuss going to write Doors of Stone? The Name of the Wind came out in 2007, I didn’t read it until 2017, and I’ve still managed to join the group of fans waiting for book three. Oh, well.

Of course, these aren’t all the stages bookworms can encounter when it comes to new releases. There’s being a part of the hype train as it leaves the station and/or being the only person aboard, which can be refreshing and saddening all at once.

Let’s chat! Which stage do you prefer? When’s the last time you pre-ordered a book? Do you like hyped books or obscure ones or both?


Literary references: Alwyn Hamilton’s Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands, #2), C. G. Drew’s A Thousand Perfect Notes, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Neal Shusterman’s Arc of Scythe series, and Patrick Rothfuss’ Doors of Stone and The Name of the Wind

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Poem: Thoughts of Place (Audio)

The other day, I had a Saturday off and my family and I visited one of our favorite ruined castles, Hohenurach. Now we’d been there plenty of times before, from the glorious summer days with the forests rich with stinging nettles and ivy to the overwhelmingly rainy fall days where the waterfall overflowed onto the trail.

On our latest visit, the mountains and valleys were shrouded in fog that came and went, and for the first time, with most of the foliage gone, I noticed the plethora of caves in the cliff along the waterfall. I knew there were a few before, but I could never have guessed there were so many.

Which got me to thinking about what it means to visit a place once versus twice, to visit a neighborhood versus living in one versus returning to one I no longer live in. It’s different every time. Hence, the poem.

Thoughts of Place

I find
that the first time
I visit a place, I am
drawn to the way
the red roofs slope,
the snow-capped mountains tower,
the oceans lap at white shores.

Yet the second time,
I see how
the locals meander the streets,
the salamanders navigate the moss,
the acacia thorns guard the sand.
How did I miss it

Living in a place
is not like visiting—
is not like returning
to where I lived before—
for the image
in my mind
of what was
is no longer
what is.


Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? Which places look different the more you visit them?

Similar poems: Snowfell, Bury Me, and Backspace

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Book Review of Background Noise: Poems, Vignettes and Word Explosions

“Remember when we heard the thunder
Saw the light that made us wonder
As the rain fell in the night
The years have passed ̶ the tender aching
Pages turned ̶ memories fading
As the rain fell into the night”

—excerpt from “Seasons of Paper”

There’s something about some poems that beg to be read aloud. I came across several such poems in Background Noise and just had to share them with the nearest family member. Reading poems aloud is such fun!

Book: Background Noise: Poems, Vignettes and Word Explosions by Jerry Danielsen
Genre: Poetry, Nonfiction
My rating: 4/5 stars
One-word description: Thought-provoking

I particularly enjoyed the poems that were on social commentary, from the longing for deeper relationships in “Salt and Chocolate” to the overabundance in consumerism reflected in “Marketing to Death” and “iWant”. The first poem made me think about my own blog and the way I probably have way too many links that people don’t bother with. What if we shared writing for the sake of writing instead of for the sake of views?

“It’s all good at

“Click here to find
More places to click on
And get a change
For the possibility
Of more clicking”

—excerpt from “Marketing to Death”

My main complaint, however, was that after a while, some of the poems felt a little too on the critical side, particularly when he wrote, “Maybe somebody / will buy this book”. As a writer, I completely understand the feelings of longing for one’s voice to be heard. But as a reader, I felt a little indignant.

In the end, the poems made me think a lot. Even as I typed this review on my laptop, my mom begged me to go on a walk with her, so I set the review aside and left. After all, what good is reading poems that make you think about technology if you simply embrace it? What good is reading books about life if we don’t live it?

In all, I gave Background Noise 4/5 stars for some excellent, thought-provoking poems yet some repetitively critical ones. I would recommend the book to readers of poetry, and I will be keeping an eye out for more of Danielsen’s work.

Let’s chat! Read any good poetry lately? Has Background Noise made it to your To-Be-Read list yet? What’s your take on the pervasiveness of technology in our culture today?


More clicking here (similar book reviews): Audacity and Full Cicada Moon

Sunday, January 20, 2019

You Don't Need a Typewriter to be a Writer

Sometimes impostor syndrome creeps up on me and punches me in the gut. To clarify, impostor syndrome is the feeling of being a fraud, of being unworthy to claim a certain title, or of being ahead for no reason at all. For writing in particular, it can take different forms. Here are just a few lies that impostor syndrome can take…

I’m only an aspiring writer because I haven’t published anything yet. 
I’m not a writer because I don’t write every day.
I’m not a real author because I’ve only indie published.
I’m not a successful author because I didn’t achieve best seller status by age twenty.
I’m not a good writer because I don’t handwrite everything.
I’m not an eccentric writer because, like the kid in the third row, I didn’t bring my typewriter to take notes on the lecture. (Yes, this one happened once. Life is weird. I love it!)

Not. Not. Not. Not. Not. Unless we’re writing for sailors, sewers, horseback riders, desperate Baudelaires, or whoever else needs knots, can we please just agree to stop dragging ourselves down? This post is for my fellow writers who struggle with impostor syndrome. Caution: inspiration and satire lie ahead.

Find what works for you.

Last year in particular, I set out to write another novel. No surprise there. But I thought, “I’m going to be a real writer this year and handwrite the whole thing. I don’t need to rely on my computer or typing skills when I have the old pen and paper, the tools of a real writer.” So I grabbed one of my empty notebooks, got well over halfway through and… I still haven’t finished the thing.

Actually, as I type this post, I plan to pick up writing the novel where I left off, but on my computer instead. While I claimed my main motivation while handwriting the book was so that I could type it up again word for word (which might help me catch more mistakes) a small part of me actually wanted to have handwritten an entire book. And I’m not saying I never will. It’s just not working for me at this time.

When it comes to writing, find what works for you.

I like to experiment. It took me several years to find out what type of novel outline I like, and this was from taking some advice and coming up with techniques of my own.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” —Albert Einstein

Claim the title.

Whether you’re published or not, claim your title. I’ve published before, but I still like to call myself a writer. It’s more fun.

A couple years ago, a dear friend of mine once told me that because she didn’t write as much as I did, she wasn’t a writer. Never mind we took a creative writing class together, she has a blog of her own, and we have a Google doc dedicated to editing each other’s recent work. More recently, she wrote in a post how she’s finally claimed the title of writer.

Say it loud, and say it proud. I like to picture myself like Hiccup right after he took down Toothless and is trying to convince the dragon and himself that he’s a Viking. Except instead of Viking I say writer. (Unless of course, you are a Viking, in which case you’re probably also a time traveler. Would you mind giving me a ride back to 1942?)

I am a writer!

Write and publish in your own time.

Ever since the second grade, I knew I wanted to be an author. When I was twelve, I first heard about the success of Christopher Paolini, who wrote Eragon when he was fifteen, published when he was twenty, and quickly achieved best-seller status. So I set out to write and publish just like that.

Life, however, turned out differently. Though I finished my first novel-length story when I was twelve and continued to write many subsequent stories, I didn’t publish anything of novel length until I was twenty-two. And that was a completely different work than my first piece. Who knows if any of my published stories will achieve best-seller status?

I know I’m probably not the best example, so I’ll mention J. R. R. Tolkien as well. He didn’t publish The Hobbit until he was 45, and many of his protagonists are in their fifties or older.

You don’t need to handwrite a book with a regular pen or a quill pen to be a real writer. You can just write. You don’t have to use NaNoWriMo as motivation to finish your novel. Just finish it. You don’t have to publish before age twenty to be successful. Publish when you can. But if you do any of those things, that’s great too!

Let’s chat! Do you ever struggle with impostor syndrome? What are some of the ways you get past it?


Literary references: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Film references: How to Train Your Dragon

Sunday, January 13, 2019

2019 Reading Resolution

Last year, instead of setting my typical Goodreads goal of 52 or 100 books, I decided to read types of books. For example, I chose categories I enjoy but might not necessarily pick up on a whim, like classics or rereads. And I had so much fun! It was a challenge, with a bit of the pressure I felt when I studied for my undergrad but with the freedom to stop reading a particular book or read more in a certain category as I saw fit.

This year, I’ll be taking a similar approach, with some changes of course, as I learned a lot from 2018. The books listed are just a few I want to read, though it’s not guaranteed that I will read those ones specifically. Without further ado, here are the types of books I plan on reading!

1 Book 700+ Pages

1,000 pages feels like too much right now, and I totally didn’t read a 1,000-page book in 2018 like I had planned. Whoops…

What are some books on my TBR that fit the criteria?

Middlemarch by George Elliot—an American classic. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while now, since I bought a George Elliot collection during my undergrad. I enjoyed Silas Marner, and I’m curious about this one.

The Betrothed by Allesandro Manzoni—an Italian classic. Can’t remember what it’s about, but it’s on my list. I’m so good at this…

2 Novels that were Adapted into Movies

I may be from a family of avid movie fans, but I lean more toward the books. Though I will watch movies to spend time with my family members, have something to talk about, and see characters brought to life on screen (see Why This Bookworm Gets Excited about Book-to-Movie Adaptations). Why wouldn’t I want to read more books adapted into films?

What am I most looking forward to reading?

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery—Does this one need an explanation? Anne of Green Gables is an excellent book, film, and audio drama. I’m a little skeptical about the latest Netflix series having heard mixed reviews, but I look forward to the next book!

The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley—The original story of Zorro. Apparently, it’s a collection of short stories!

3 Classics

Once again, contemporary books are great, but so are classics. I need to read more of them than I do.

What’s on my list?

1984 by George Orwell—This one has been on my list forever. Okay, not forever. Since 2015.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank—How have I not read this yet? Yep, I’m still living under a rock.

5 Books I Own

I will probably read more, but five seems like a good place to start. I’m also not going to limit myself to books I haven’t read. Rereads are perfectly fine and deserve attention too (see The Joys of Rereading).

What’s on my shelf?

The Best of Jack London—As I kid, I was obsessed with the audio book of White Fang, so it’s no surprise I bought a collection later on. I just haven’t read them all yet.

5 Books Published in 2019

As a reader, I’m constantly distracted by all the shiny new books. As a writer, I call it a strategy to find out what’s been released recently, how it affects the reading collective, and whether or not I like it. That and I like the pretty new covers.

What am I most looking forward to this year?

An Anatomy of Beasts (Faloiv, book 2) by Olivia A. Cole—Have I not ranted enough about how much I enjoyed A Conspiracy of Stars? (See book review). I can’t wait to read the next book. I’d pre-order it, but I have no idea where I’ll be living when it comes out.

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews—From one of my favorite bloggers comes yet another contemporary YA novel! I thoroughly enjoyed A Thousand Perfect Notes (see book review), and I’m eager to see what Drews has written in her next book.

The Clockwork Ghost (York, book 2) by Laura Ruby—I was so curious when I saw The Shadow Cipher (York, book 1) at my library that I just scooped it up. But I’m still waiting for a release date for book 2. I sure hope it comes out before I move…

1 Book Published Before 1800

Out with the new and in with the old. Wait…

There is a plethora of books published before 1800 that I have yet to read.
What’s on my list?

The Faerie Queene, Book 2 by Edmund Spenser—Again, I haven’t read this one yet. I wrote my dissertation on Book 1, but why haven’t I picked up Book 2? Okay, I have technically picked it up. My copy’s an anthology.

3 Nonfiction Books

I’m going to broaden this one to include collections of poems, even though poetry can sometimes be fictional. I also learned that I tend to shy away from longer books when it comes to nonfiction, probably because I’m still learning what I like in the genre.

What am I most interested in reading?

God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis—When I visited Oxford on the C. S. Lewis trip, we read one of the essays, and I want to read more.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass—This is a book I own and have read sections of before, but I’d like to delve into the whole thing.

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho—My mom and I are planning on hiking the El Camino trail across Spain this spring. What better way to prepare than to read a book about it?

Total goal: 20 Types of Books

I’ll probably read more, but hey, this’ll be fun!


Let’s chat! What are you planning on reading in 2019? Do you set goals for yourself? What new releases are you looking forward to?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Poem: The First Snow (Audio)

Welcome to the new face of Word Storm!

After I finished my MBA, I did some tweaking, and I commissioned a lovely graphic artist to design a new cover photo because dragons and tea, travel and thunderstorms. ISN’T IT PRETTY!? Thanks again, Rowa!

But I don’t just have a new cover photo for you. I also spent a good deal of time in December recording the published poems and the Reader’s Choice from 2018, and I’ll be doing some more recordings this year as well. Poetry isn’t just meant to be read on a computer screen, but it’s also meant to be read and shared aloud.

The First Snow

The first snow is fleeting,
fluttering one moment and
                                                melted the next—
but to the driver going to work, she is a blinding sleet,
cascading, bottling up your light and tossing it back—
to the biker heading home, she is the needles,
while the flesh is the pincushion and throw.

The second snow is silent,
drifting down in spurts
                                                taking turns with the sun—
but to the magpie fighting the wind, she is a rip current,
a tether caught on feathers, holding back branches—
to the red rooftops sloping here, she is but a coat,
taken off and folded up indoors.

The third snow is loud,
crackling thunder
                                                howling wind—
but to the mother waiting for a call, she is but a sound
of wailing, complaining, she’s heard it all before—
to the child waiting for a taste of dusted sugar,
she is a touch of dreams, sleigh bells, and numb fingers.


For more audio poetry, check out my Poetry page and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Let’s chat! What do you think of the new design? Enjoy the audio additions? What did you think of this poem?

Similar poems: Biking to Work, Snowfell, and In Season