On All Hallow's Eve

on all hallow’s eve
when the spirits of saints
rise with a whisper and a rap on your door,
we gather, we children
who are not afraid,
we gather to send them all home.
we send them all home with fire and song,
we send them all home
with dancing.


Open Mic

A week ago I went to an open mic night at a local coffeeshop with a friend of mine. She sang along with a dozen or more other performers for about three hours, and I listened. The mic was open for poetry as well - or "spoken word," as it's apparently called now - but I didn't have anything with me, and I wasn't really in the mood to get up on stage.

Sometimes developing your creativity requires stepping back and listening. Setting aside the urge to be heard, and opening your own ears. This is why the most oft repeated rule for writers is "read more." Because you do not develop an ear or an eye for your own work if you do not exercise that same ear and eye with other people's works. 

I learned a few things last week. First, that it's a good thing to cheer loudly for everyone, whether they were any good or not. At the very least, you are cheering on their bravery. Second, that imitation really is an excellent starting point for any work (though it would be a pity if you stayed there). Third, that artists, though often shy, are strongest in community with one another. 


Some Words for Writers

1. Stop measuring your work by word or page count. Write until you've said something and said it well.

2. Study grammar in your spare time. Put down the Sunday morning crossword and start diagramming sentences.

3. Only steal ideas from the Greeks.

4. Write with a fine pen on beautiful paper. Your words will be better. Guaranteed.

5. Don't sacrifice good storytelling for accuracy. Unless you're writing non-fiction, of course.

6. There are few books (The Idiot, the Bible) that can get away with a protagonist who has no flaws. Your book probably isn't one of them.

7. There is no substitute for reading a good book. If you write but do not read, you're doing something wrong.

8. Be nice to people.

9. If everyone followed the rule "write what you know," our libraries would be very small indeed.

10. Every writer starts with people-watching.

11. Be careful pulling stories from your past. You may begin to confuse your memories with your manuscript.

12. Know your calling. Just because Flannery O'Conner changed your life doesn't mean you're meant to follow in her footsteps. (Though it might.)

13. There's nothing wrong with writing a rip-off*. There's something very wrong with publishing it.

14. There's no shame in following a paradigm. In other words, please do.

15. Never publicly criticize another author. Unless you review books for a living, in which case, you might want to write your novels under a pen name.

16. There's nothing like the realization, after you've spent your college years writing dozens of short stories, that you have no idea how a novel works.

17. All writing should happen with hot tea or coffee and warm butter croissants at the ready.

18. Keep pen and paper on your person at all times. This is a life requirement.

19. Don't set your story in Beaumont just because you happen to live there. Setting should be as necessary as character. If your setting doesn't influence your story, something's off.

20. If you just want to write about yourself, forget the novel and keep a journal. Though...keep a journal anyway.

21. When in doubt, involve a phoenix, an old woman in the woods, or Pandora's box.

22. Learn to portray conflict through setting alone.

23. Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, and Leonard Cohen do more to inspire than all the Bird by Birds and MFA programs combined.

*Yes, fan fiction, I'm talking to you.



Vaguely considering compiling Advent-related poetry here as we approach that season. Thoughts?


I've been hearing this in my head today.

Designed by Tim Easley.

Politics?...or Not.

Here's a slight derivation from the norm...

I've been thinking lately what a pity it is that caring for the environment is so often associated with political inclination. There's nothing inherently politically liberal about wanting nature to be right and healthy, yet we frequently assume there's some necessary connection between preferring big government and collecting reusable shopping bags.

I prefer small government because I love communities. And I believe that change begins on a local level, because you have to change a culture to change behavior. Also, I'm stubborn. I'd rather my neighbor and I partnered together to clean the streets than have someone in a city on the other side of the country telling me I have to.

The danger for me is in assuming that because I prefer small government, I shouldn't care for all the causes the big government people care about. Saving the whales and lowering carbon emissions isn't actually just for democrats. In fact, the idea behind small government thinking is that individuals should take these issues on themselves instead of leaving it to policy makers.

Compassion and consideration should never be left to one side of the political divide or another. Being fully human means caring for the world you've been given - not just as a gift, but as a responsibility. And I do think we can do more for it if we start doing things ourselves.

Regardless of who you're voting for and what you think people should be doing in Washington, I think we should take this voting season to seriously consider what it is that we are passionate about changing - whether it's damage to the environment, the rights of animals who cannot care for themselves, or human beings in need of basic necessities. There are concrete, practical things that we can do for change - most of which have nothing to do with who's in office.

I'll be thinking about what I want to do this month. Let me know if you want to do something, too.
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