Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring is in the Squirrel

The other day, I found this little critter sitting in my feeder and quickly scared it off. It was there again today and even though I jumped in the window, and tried to act all scary and monster-like, it didn't even flinch--not even when I knocked on the window. Brave little thing. So then, I sank down to it's level and really looked at it.

I'm not crazy about it hogging the feeder, and certainly don't want it hanging close to the house too much, but golly gee whiz, it is cute isn't it? So I stopped trying to spook it, sat down and appreciated the chance to be so close to a little bit of nature.

Spring is in the air, and I think this little guy can feel it, too. :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Magic of Small Moments

Wow, can't believe it's March 1st and it's been two months since I last posted over here. I've never been much of a blogger and most of the time I feel like I don't really have anything worthwhile to say. And, maybe that's the problem--not that I don't have anything important or worthwhile to say, but maybe I shouldn't be thinking of it that way.

Maybe I should just start writing about the little things, because most of the time, those little things really are what it's all about, aren't they? We always tend to wait for the big things, to measure success with those things we perceive as "important,"  or "worthwhile," but what about all those little in-between moments? If we are always casting off these moments as unimportant, always waiting for the next perceived "successful" event, we are never truly living in the present.

And besides, most of those moments we define as "successful," they are very fleeting, too. They don't usually last, so then we're back to waiting until that next elusive event to happen while letting all those wonderful little in-between things--like the sound of a baby laughing, the hug or smile of a child, or the visual beauty of a bird or flower--pass us by.

So, right now, I'm taking a deep breath and appreciating everything in my life; my friends, my family, my health, the roof over my head, books and cozy slippers--and instead of gripping about the cold outside, I think I'm going to go make myself a nice cup of hot chocolate, turn on the fireplace, wrap myself up in a warm blanket and watch yesterday's episode of Grimm.

Ah, just the thought of it makes me smile.

What about you? What small magical moments made you smile today?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Haiku Book Giveaway - by Kala Ramesh

GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. Thank you to everyone who entered! You'll also notice that two winners were picked. I was overjoyed to come across another copy hiding in my books! Yay! :)

What better way to celebrate the new year than to have a book giveaway! It is a haiku book for children and is undoubtedly the most unique and delightful one I have ever seen! It was written by the very talented haiku poet, Kala Ramesh, and comes straight from India (with a slight detour through London.) :) 

As far as I know, this book is not available anywhere in North America, and this is the last copy I have so don't miss your chance to own this little gem! It is simply called Haiku and is published by Katha Books. 

The deadline to enter is Sunday, January 12th at midnight, Eastern time. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. 

Here are the book details from the back cover: 

In this lovely compilation, complete with foldout illustrations, Kala Ramesh presents highly evocative and wildly creative Haiku poems that will light up your child's imagination with joy and wonder. With fragments of colourful world nature, animals and magic that is distinctly Indian, the book is sure to conjure immersive mindscapes that no reader will soon forget. 

It also comes with a companion activity book titled My Haiku Moments

Author bio: Kala Ramesh comes from an artistic South Indian family and believes, as her father is fond of saying, "The soil needs to be fertile for the plant to bloom." Kala feels she owes this poetic streak in her to her mother. She has had extensive training in Hindustani classical music. Indian music has taught her to think within and without the box. A Haiku poet since 2005, Kala is keen to see children in India take to Haiku and its genres, and conducts workshops in the art of Haiku writing in schools. 

Illustrator bio: Surabhi Singh is a lively young illustrator and designer from Bijnor, with her ideas curled up inside her curly hair. She revels in caricaturing her family and friends. Haiku is her first ever attempt at illustrating for children. 

And to whet your appetites a bit more, here are two of the haiku you will find in this delightful book: 

My hometown… 

a strong fragrance 

of mango dawn 

afternoon stillness
a dragonfly touching
circles in the pond

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Few Suggestions to Help Writing Productivity and Confidence

Well, here we are, nearing the final week of November. How did THAT happen? lol Things have been going pretty well in the writing department. I've been working on a new novel and got in another 1000 words today which puts me over the 21,000 mark. And, I have to say that even though some days the challenge of putting words down is still really hard, overall, it does seem like it's getting a bit easier all the time.

I've thought about this for a while now, trying to figure what has made the difference in my attitude and writing processes, and so far I have attributed it to several different factors:

  • I've realized that even mega successful writers often deal with self-doubt and that contrary to what I used to believe, they are not all frenzied caffeine-addicted word-spewing machines. Really, I kid you not! Wild, eh? Yep, I am not the only writer who finds it a challenge to put words on the page every day. Who knew! ;) I'm also constantly reminding myself that first drafts don't need to be perfect. That's what editing and revisions are for. 
  • I've started using Scrivener and can't even imagine writing without it anymore. I believe that the ease of being able to switch scenes around at the click of a button is indispensable for non-linear writers like me. And the cork board feature? LOVE IT! There is SO much to love about this program, but a word of warning, there is a bit of a learning curve. If you can stick with it though, I think you'll find it's well, well worth it. I give it a huge two thumbs up.
  • I've also started using the pomodoro technique, and bought this nifty little productivity app called Tomatoes. It's a very simple process but I'm finding the results quite amazing so far. I set my Tomatoes timer for 15 minutes, write, then take a 5 minute break, and keep going. You can also set a longer break after you complete a certain number of pomodoro (pomodori?). For anyone that tends to procrastinate, this technique is definitely worth a try.
  • And lastly, I've started listening to a few different writing podcasts which not only put me in the right frame of mind, but have given me great insights and knowledge into the world of writing and publishing. On my list are The Narrative Breakdown, hosted by James Monahan and Cheryl Klein, This Creative Life, hosted by Sara Zarr, and Writing Excuses, hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Dan Wells. 
You can download all these podcasts through iTunes for free, too. 

What about you? Care to share any tips and suggestions that have helped you in your writing journey?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Prune Juice Journal

A couple days ago I received an email from Terri French, Prune Juice Journal's current editor, notifying me that the new issue was out and to thank me for my contribution. I had submitted a while ago and although I had already received an acceptance note it had sort of slipped my mind, so it was a happy moment!

Here is one of my three senryu which is appearing in the issue:

bait fishing
the last hook catches
grandpa's ear

You can read the entire issue here.

Prune Juice Journal - November 2013 issue

Monday, October 28, 2013

Writing Blog Picks

Funny how most of the blog posts that resonate with me are all about how to be a more confident writer, finishing your story, and silencing the negative voices--well, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise since writing has never been easy for me. 

Anyhow, here are a few posts I've recently read that I wanted to share:

The Secret Life of Writers:

How to Make Yourself Write When You'd Rather…Well, Not

Positive Writers:

Creative Flow: How to Silence Negative Voices and Write

Adventures in YA Publishing:

Writing to the End of Your Story

Stop Messing Around and Just Finish

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Defining Haiku: The Truth About Counting Syllables

Here's a short article I wrote a while back for the haiku magazine I was running, Berry Blue Haiku. Thought it might interest some of you out there.

Many people today define haiku as a three-lined poem comprised of 17 syllables. It is true that traditional Japanese haiku followed the form of 5-7-5 sound units, but in Japan, sound units (called kana) are shorter and counted differently than English syllables.

For example, in English, the word London is counted as two syllables, but in Japanese, the word would be broken down in the following way: lo/n/do/n. (See Stalking the Wild Onji
by Richard Gilbert, PH.D.)

This means that if an English language haiku comprised of 17 syllables was translated into Japanese, it would be counted as having more than 17 Japanese sound units. This is why English language haiku that follow the 5-7-5 form can sometimes end up feeling wordy.

Another issue that can affect the syllable count is the use of cutting words (called kireji in Japanese), which is a category of words that indicate pauses or emphasis at the end of a line.

Kireji are written/spoken punctuation and were included in the sound unit count. This could ultimately take up to two or even three sound units. Since punctuation in English language haiku is not included in the syllable count, this also causes another sound unit/syllable imbalance.

Most modern haiku experts today agree that approximately 11 - 14 syllables is a closer equivalency to the 17 sound units found in traditional Japanese haiku.

But instead of counting "syllables" when writing haiku, many believe that a good rule of thumb is to try to keep to the form of a short line, then long, and then short line. 

Another option for teachers who would like to use haiku in relation to teaching syllables would be to go with a 3-5-3 syllable form.

When writing haiku, one should also remember to focus on the simple beauty of everyday moments. By using specific and descriptive vocabulary, poets can create vivid imagery that will come alive for the reader.  

In the end, this is what the true essence of haiku is all about!