Category Archives: Editorial Board Essay
Poetry has been around for centuries. It’s one of the best forms of writing to release emotions. With thought and genuine feeling, it can be extremely powerful. As we venture in NaPoWriMo, I want you all to remember that being a poet is not selective, it’s something everyone can do.
So of the best poets came from times or situations of hardship. So I thought I would use this as an opportunity to share with you some of my personally favorite poets along with the contributions they’ve made to the literary arts.
One of the most notable would have to be the esteemed Maya Angelou. Not only was she a poet, she was a singer, actress and civil rights activist. She made history as the first African American bestseller in the nonfiction category. A poem that I believe to be one of her best, it’s also very well known, “Still I Rise.” It’s a touching poem that teaches us all to fight through the battles in life. No matter what was thrown at her, she still rose, and it’s imploring us to do the same. It’s an inspiration to be daring, even if we face criticism and adversity.
A more recently popular poet, Rupi Kaur, is one of my new favorites. If you’ve read either of her books “Milk and Honey” or “The Sun and Her Flowers,” you likely know why. She’s very empowering as a poet. While more focused at the modern day woman, all her pieces can resonate with each person in some way. He topics are very relatable, especially in this day and time. She pushes the boundaries of modern poetry with her feministic and strong words. She is a force to be reckoned with.
And of course, a poet I could not dare to leave out, Shell Silverstein. He has been a favorite since my childhood as he’s one of the first poets I was introduced to. His books are very well known and commonly taught on or mentioned in elementary school. His words teach creativity, imagination, and push for individuality. He was more than the cookie cutter mold as far as poets go, as he targeted are far younger demographic. Yet he was one of the best when I was in elementary school and continues to be.
I have always been in love with poetry. It’s hard to explain why it’s so special, but poetry is something that has always impacted me and has always been powerful to read. I’ve especially admired spoken word or slam poetry as it’s also known as. These were always the poems that hit me the most. Though I’ve always read poetry and absolutely loved it I never felt I could write it. Besides a few English assignments throughout the years, it was something I never really tried. I just assumed it was too difficult for me and simply only meant for me to admire and not create in my own time. I allowed myself to think this way for multiple years. I Just always brushed it off and never truly tried my hand at it. Until the summer of 2016. Something came upon me after a week-long summer retreat and I simply felt inspired. This mental block was finally slipping away and something I was convinced I couldn’t do finally felt achievable. I began writing a rough draft for my first slam poem, and I was hooked. I spent months writing and revising and going over these words until I felt like they were as perfect as they could be. Later that winter I got a chance to perform the same piece and it’s a moment I’ll forever hold close to my heart and remember. This is not to say I’m some world class poet, in fact I’ll be the first to admit I’m probably mediocre at best. I’ve only just gotten into writing poetry in the past two years or so and mainly write in free verse. I have a lot of learning and improving to do, just like anyone else. What I am here to say is that this was something I believed for so long that I could never do, but I was inspired, and I tried it and now it’s becoming a passion of mine. So, in light of NaPoWriMo this month, take a leap and try something new. Don’t let yourself get stuck in that toxic mindset of I can’t, or it won’t be good enough. If it’s something that interest you and is something you love, go for it with all the confidence you can muster. Even if the result is something you completely hate, it’s a start. All that’s important is starting and doing. Whether that be writing poetry for NaPoWriMo, or maybe even writing a novel, or simply writing in a different style or genre, take that little leap of faith, and start.
In terms of writing poetry, free verse is always an easy place to begin. It eases the pressure of having to always rhyme while still getting the feel for the art. There’s so many different methods and styles of poetry, so find one you like and run with it. It’s not going to be perfect, or beautiful the first time. But keep writing and keep working and editing that one piece if it’s something you want to complete. I really encourage you to participate in NaPoWriMo if it’s something you’ve never tried before, and you enjoy reading poetry. Don’t feel at all like you have to write 30 poems, or even that you have to write every day. Even if you write one poem for the entire event, that’s participation enough. Don’t let your own mind keep you from fully reaching your potential.
Poetry is all around us. From the orange that colors the sky during a sunset or the piercing pain that one feels from a tragedy, to even the dull and utterly boring silence of a math classroom. Everything has a poem for it. It is the outlet for human emotion arranged in a rhythmic structure. Once all of the pieces are put together it’s like magic. It is unlike any other form of writing out there, it is truly unique.
I think just by those first few lines you can put two and two together that poetry is my favorite writing form. We have finally reached the month of April, aka National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). A great way to bring out that inner poet that is in all of us. Do you remember the large uproar with the picture of the dress? Some people saw the dress as blue and black, while others saw it as white and gold. There was an ongoing debate as to what the real color of the dress was. Isn’t that so strange? How everyone was looking at the same picture yet there was a split as to what they saw? For some reason, this reminds me of how we analyze poetry. A piece could mean something to one person, but it could also mean something completely different to someone else. It’s the same piece, but two people received a different message or come up with a different interpretation. I find this to be utterly fascinating.
There is a common assumption that one must be broken in order to write poetry. That’s at least what I had thought as a young writer. I thought I had to be fallen into a deep depression or haunted by inner demons in order to write quality poetry. This is certainly not the case. You do not have to be broken in order to call yourself a poet.
Poetry can be found in sadness and joy, darkness and light, night and day; it can be found anywhere. Our lives are full of it. How and where we find it makes it all the more meaningful. It expresses where we are in the here and now. If one tries too hard to put themselves in a negative space in order to write something, they are going down an unhealthy path. Perhaps you are in a dark time right now, or things are unusually joyful, or you are kind of in the middle ground. No matter where you are, poetry can be used a guide or a way to release feelings that have been closed up, no matter what kind of feelings these may be.
I would suggest doing some research on different types of poetry to find formats that will best help you express yourself. This is the month to really dig deep into this genre so don’t be afraid to use this opportunity to explore and play around with this beautiful writing form. The world is your canvas. It is up to you.
Good luck to all NaPoWriMo participants!
As March draws near to a close, NaPoWrimo lays just over the horizon. But before we can start our month of poetry writing, lets clear some things up first. Everyone can be a poet, and I mean everyone. Poetry isn’t just for the angst and tortured souls or those who have overcome insurmountable events in their lives. Poetry is an expression of events or emotions through words that create powerful images. It doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t have to be short, or long. The magic about poetry is that it really can be anything you want it to.
With all writing, the first thing you really want to do is define your reason, or what inspires you most. Whether it be to share your life in words that only the writer minded can understand, or to inspire others, or simply to put your jumbled thoughts on a page in the same mismatched rhythm your brain creates them in. Once you have this, you can begin to look further into poetry. What kind of poet do you want to be? Do you want to rhyme the last word of every line, or maybe every other line, or you want every third word to rhyme, but maybe you don’t want it to rhyme at all. And this can change piece to piece, as you see what best fits for what you’re trying to accomplish. You want to find the feeling that you want your piece to have. Think about or look up some images that remind you of that particular feeling, maybe some descriptive words, whatever helps you to embody that emotion. Then put your mind to paper. It can be rough at first, but just let your words flow. Your lines may be all put together, and certain words you may not like, but with everything you can go back and edit. But if you’re becoming a poet only for NaPoWriMo, then remember that it’s not about the quality of the poem. It’s simply about writing the poems. Putting your mind into beautiful and imaginative words. Let your emotions drain from the pen, as lines and stanzas come together. Because that’s what poetry is all about. Making yourself vulnerable, not hiding behind the normal regulations of writing, because it can be anything you want it to be. There are so many styles, and forms of poetry that you can experiment with, and create, simply to better yourself as a poet and as a writer.
Another thing to remember about poetry, it’s not a story. Your sentences may not always make sense and may often lack punctuation but that’s okay. You’re not writing paragraphs, you’re writing stanzas. You’re not telling fluid stories, but almost impressions of ones. Not every detail will come through, and not everything will always make sense, but sometimes that’s just poetry. You may be used to writing 5 paragraph essays and pages in stories, but you may have to tell that story in 10 lines, so you have to choose your words and the details you include carefully, with thought and whole-hearted attention. That’s the beauty of it all, and everyone can do it. I can, you can, we all can be poets.
I am just going to come out and say it that I am not the biggest book reader. Most of the time, I find reading to be very difficult. I just can’t seem to find the time or patience to read anymore, and unless I’m really into it, I have a tendency to grow bored. There have been a limited number of books that I have truly gotten lost in, and when I do, you might as well never see me again because I won’t put it down. It is such a thrilling feeling, and I wish there were more novels that made me feel this way. Nowadays, however, I feel that I still read more than most people my age. I look around and all I see are smartphone addicted children who raise an eyebrow at the mention of books. This is at least in my experience.
The writing community however, is very different. Some of the best writers I know have bookshelves worth of stories that they’ve read or are planning to read, and to see this is astounding. I started to think a lot more about why storytellers read, and how reading really does shape a writer. Perhaps many may find the correlation between the two obvious, but just a year or two ago, I couldn’t quite make the connection. Why should writers read?
Whether we read for the purposes of our own personal pleasures or not, reading is an unspoken writing lesson. It assists in vocabulary building and provides ideas about concepts and styles to use in our own writing. Certain novels inspire us so much that we completely change the way we write because of it. For example, certain novels and series that have shaped or influenced my writing (and just me in general) have been stories like The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Certain books come around and change us and the way we view the world, therefore shaping how we write about the world.
We also discover flaws or determine our writing preferences through reading. Maybe you read a novel that is completely different from the way you write, and it changes you so much that you decide to alter your writing style or you find yourself interested in learning and/or writing about a different genre. This causes your writing to evolve, even when you don’t realize it.
So whether you just hate books in general, can’t wait to get your hands on a new novel, or are somewhere chilling in the middle ground like myself, reading is crucial to your narrative journey. Essentially, no matter what kind of writing you enjoy, picking up a story will benefit you in the long run. Whether one wants to believe in it or not, this is a simple truth: Reading is JUST as important as writing. It’s hard to make time or force yourself to read, but you can never know what life-altering world lies behind the plain book spine on the nearest shelf.
When I was thirteen, I attended a summer camp for creative writing hosted by Duke TIP. Some of the brightest, smartest, most talented kids in the country were there, and it was the first time I had ever felt inferior as a writer—and really, inferior in general. At school I had always received applause, praise and positivity for my writing. I was the only one who openly enjoyed and excelled in English class, who liked to write poetry and short stories—it was my thing and I believed I was very good at it. Admittedly I had been in a bubble, because at my camp I met so many people who loved writing too, and who was much better at it than me. Throughout the course of the program my creative writing class engaged in several workshops, where students shared their writing with each other while giving and receiving feedback. Undoubtedly, I was nervous and intimidated by the already stellar pieces I had been hearing from these smart kids, and by the time I had to present my own piece I could feel my face heat up. I received way more negative feedback than positive, and boy did the tears start coming! I couldn’t understand. Why were they being so nitpicky, why were there so many areas of improvement they were pointing out? Why wasn’t I being praised?
The truth is, my writing needed a lot of work. And another truth is, it always will. I’ve probably exhausted this quote in some of my other editorial board essays, but it will never stop being so important to understand. It’s from Ernest Hemingway and it says, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Nobody is a complete master at writing. There will always be something to learn and improve upon—even if you’re the most talented, critically acclaimed novelist in the world! There will never be a moment where we have hit the pinnacle, we have hit the peak, where there is nothing more to learn. We take much of what we use in our writing from books—and there are millions we have yet to read! Millions of books with millions of combinations of styles, unique blends of voices, storylines, characters, etc. I know that I have so much left to discover and use in my own writing, even though I’ve come a long way from my thirteen-year-old self.
That day I had been wearing my heart on my sleeve and allowing what was actually constructive criticism to be words of insult attacking my writing. My writing is who I am, and that was why it had hurt. But beyond that, it hurt because I believed I didn’t need any feedback, that I was already the best I could be because nobody had told me otherwise. After all, isn’t it more fun and uplifting to only hear praise? Absolutely! But we cannot shy away from criticism if we want to grow as writers. We have to realize that we will always be improving, and thus we should work at allowing ourselves to be more open to opinions about our writing that differ from our own.
I invite you to work at your reception of criticism. Of course, be able to distinguish between those who are just trying to tear you down and those who want to build you up by offering advice. Here at CWC, all we want is to build you up, and I know that as you continue to write and share here, you will continue to grow and improve. Happy writing!
We’ve all been in that season of writing where we just feel so incredibly uninspired. We still have that passion for our story to be written but words don’t seem to be forming properly and everything just seems dull. I’ve been there constantly and it’s a struggle. We want to write desperately and finally have the time, but it just doesn’t happen. Something that has really helped me in those moments and has kept up my momentum for my novel is creating extra media to go along with it. We of course have our actual writing, our outlines, our character sheets, and everything related to that but then we’ve got other things we can create. This can include Pinterest boards, music playlists, video edits, or even art based on your novel if you have the skills.
My absolute favorite thing to do is create Pinterest boards based off characters or general inspiration for the book. I have a board for each of my characters and one for things that don’t necessarily fit with any of the characters but captures the feeling of my book. It’s a simple, and fun way to get inspiration for your novel but can also be a way to rewind and relax. Just create a Pinterest account and start scrolling through to find photos. Of course, searching specific key words narrows the results down and can make finding related photos easier. It can be as general as fantasy, to find fantasy related photos, or as specific as typing in physical traits to find photos of people who you envision as your characters. This really makes my novel come more alive and inspires me and helps my imagination flow when I get down to writing. I’m a very visual person so that’s another reason why this is something that I love to do and really helps a lot.
A second thing that I recently started doing that I absolutely love is creating a playlist inspired by my novel. I’ve always wanted to do this for my book but never really knew how or really had the time to do it, until now. I use Spotify for mine specifically, but you can use any music streaming website or even your own music if you feel you have enough of it to create a sufficient playlist. It can be hard at first to find songs or bands that fit your story perfectly, especially if you haven’t completed your book. There’s so much music out there that it can be a little overwhelming. Start by figuring out a genre or type of music you feel really fits your own book and listening to that and finding individual songs. You can add songs that simply have a general feel to your novel, that you think describe a certain character, or a certain relationship between characters or even songs that you feel fit a specific scene you have written or one in your head that’s not quite down on paper. Once you have a few songs added to a playlist it can be much easier to find similar songs if you’re using a music streaming website or app. I simply start a playlist radio on Spotify and that’ll start playing songs similar to those I’ve added. I’ll just listen to it whenever I have free time and if a song comes on that I think is perfect, I immediately add it. I’ve even started writing down and keeping track of each song and how it fits the story, whether it’s for a certain character, relationship or scene.
If you draw or do art, or have any other related skills use those to create other media for your book and add another layer to the whole process. These are just a couple of my favorite ways to bring my novel to life even more than just words. It’s extremely fun and is something I can always go back to if I’m in need of some extra inspiration. Though I will admit, it can be a large means of procrastination when I really should be working on my actual story, but hey it’s certainly better than doing nothing at all related to my novel.
A lot of times we write as an escape. We use it to crate a new reality, to build lives that we dream of, and to have fun. But sometimes, writing has a higher place than that. Our writing can be used as a platform. A platform to share ideas, to support others, and to share our own stories. As writers, I believe we all have a gift. Not everyone can turn ordinary words into scenery, into characters, to heartbreaking poems, into stories. We are gifted. But what are we doing with that gift to impact others? Not everyone is meant to write about life, but there are those with stories that need to be heard. In a society where teenagers rely on social media for validation of one’s worth, a search for confidence in the number of likes. Sometimes all we need are encouraging words, to know that we’re not alone, in a dark world you can create a light with your writing. Some of the most impactful writings I have read have been based on the authors life, or someone very close to them. They share their vulnerability, making their words almost human. We can all connect with what they say because in ways we all relate. This is something I feel we should see more in writing. Share you heart, share your life, make your readers connect with you. If you are detached from the ink on your paper, then it inevitably will not succeed. The best writing comes from the heart. I was once told that in order to be your best as a writer, you have to write what scares you the most. Taking those words for face value, you may think of writing about your worst fear, but that’s not what they mean. If you venture deeper, writing what scares you is writing what make you vulnerable, insecure, and truthfully human. Putting our lives in to words can be a very daunting task, and not every word you write has to be your life word for word, but placing your experiences into your stories, making your characters similar to you in reaction, in action, in emotion, can make them more realistic. You’ve lived through more than you may always see, you see what others go through around you, and maybe you are struggling with things yourself. You can use your writing to share, because others may be going through very similar things. I feel that writing should be personal, it should reflect your thoughts and feelings. Let it illustrate who you are, and it will come together. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, the worst that can happen is that someone won’t like it, but it’s one of the bravest things you can do. So, spread your truth, and share your life. Let writing empower you and empower others.
As we continue to grow and improve as writers, we have a tendency to not want to look back. Some of us cringe at the thought of our past writings. When reading them, we know exactly what was going through our minds as each word was written and each grammar mistake was placed. It can be quite embarrassing to look back on, which is understandable, since I have been (and still am) in the same boat. Every time I found a piece of writing that I thought was too bland or embarrassing, into the trash it went. I never wanted it to see the light of day again in fear that someone will somehow find it and go “Wow, this Mary-Kelly girl? What on earth was she thinking?”
These fears are of course irrational, but very real. I almost never kept any of my writings growing up, and even within the past couple of years. Very few pieces have survived. If I wasn’t really proud if it, it was eventually deleted and never to be seen again. I thought that I was simply saving myself from the embarrassment, when in reality, I was throwing away the purest versions of myself. I was setting myself up for regret, and regret is certainly what I feel in this point in my narrative journey, because now there is little journey to look back on.
I greatly wish that I could go back in time and tell myself to quit being so self-conscious. Unfortunately, this cannot be done and time must continue moving forward. I won’t have the pleasure of picking up a piece that I wrote in 6th grade and say “Wow! Look at how much I’ve grown!” because it’s in a crumpled ball out there somewhere. So this is a message directed to myself, and to all of you: DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR WRITING. Every one of your stories or poems has some kind of background. Whether or not you were bored in class one day and decided to scribble some words down or if you were really torn up about a breakup and couldn’t help but pour your heart and soul into a poem. It all has meaning. It’s all you. Each is a part of your narrative journey and even if you find it to be “mediocre” or an “embarrassment” it’s still your creation and has continued to drive you forward. It’s easy to pull the plug, but it certainly isn’t any easier to reverse time to get it all back.
By looking back at what you’ve written from previous years, or even from last week, you will understand yourself better as a person and writer. You get to be the audience for yourself. You let time wipe your slate clean and allow yourself to grow so that you may look back with a fresh mind, as if you were someone else. It is reminder of where you come from and how you’ve molded into the writer you are today. The progress is just as, if not more, important than the end goal. I wish someone could have told me this, so that is why I tell you. Treat your old pieces, even the ones that you aren’t particularly proud of, with respect. Do not feel ashamed of the writer that you used to be, because without them, you can never truly and honestly say “I’ve made it.”
This is the first sentence of this essay. This is the second sentence of this essay. We are talking about syntax. Each sentence is the same length right now. Each sentence is the same type right now. There are many different types of syntax. You’re probably getting bored with this essay.
I don’t blame you! When you write several sentences in a row with the same sentence length and style, you’re going to create rhythm (or lack thereof) and tone that can suck the life from what you are trying to say. Imagine having a conversation with someone. As humans, we talk in a certain way that fits with the tone of our voice. Our conversations are comprised of short, abrupt sentences or long, winding sentences that both stream from our consciousness. Would it seem natural for us to use the same structure for each sentence we speak? Absolutely not! The English language has several types of sentences we use every day without us even realizing it!
This is a short simple sentence. It fits nicely between two complex sentences. There are no pauses you need to take within the sentence, and it helps carry the flow of your story or piece. There are other times, however, where you’ll want to use a complex sentence to put more emphasis, to cause the readers to pause and think. Other times, you may have strung many longer sentences together and now you want to put emphasis on an important idea. You use a short sentence. You might use another. The reader will pause at these sentences because they stand out; the sentences will also leave a longer lasting imprint on the reader because of their brief size.
I just described how important syntax is in nonfiction writing—say, when you’re writing an argumentative or persuasive essay. You want your readers to be impacted by your statement, and the way to keep them engaged is to vary your syntax! You want to keep it exciting, interesting, and gripping. Don’t write dull—write lively. The same applies to your fiction, in your novels and short stories, and of course your poetry. You use specific syntax to help create pace for your tone and mood, and to mirror the content of your sentences and breathe life into the story you’re writing. When you want to induce fear, you break up your sentences to quicken the pace. The light just went out. You hear footsteps down the hall. What’s going to happen? Can you escape? Where is he now? Or, say it’s summertime during a chapter in your book. When you describe the setting, you might write with long, flowing sentences for a slower pace that mirrors the lazy, sleepy mood of the summer day. A breeze has just flittered through as the bright, hot sun beats down on the town, and a cat sleeps soundly underneath a shady tree.
The story no longer feels 2D—there’s an element of feeling that is introduced when our syntax can help articulate what is happening in our sentences. The next time you sit down to write something, pay attention to your syntax. Sometimes we tend to write our syntax with a “stream of consciousness.” We may not realize what kind of sentences we are writing—we just write what seems natural! But by being deliberate with your syntax to produce an emotion—fear, laziness, joy, suspense—not only are you making your writing more engaging for your reader, but you are breathing life into it, too.
No matter how genius the concept of your story may be, it’s going to fall flat if your syntax is flat too, so make sure it’s varied. Happy Writing!