Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Crafty Poet Goes Audible

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Several years ago made an ebook version of my first print craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. I was very pleased with their work and would happily recommend them to anyone in need of the services they provide. They are efficient, communicate well with their clients, and provide great work. I was, in fact, so pleased that I also used eBookit for the ebook version of The Crafty Poet II.

Recently, eBookit branched out into offering conversion of print books into audiobooks. It never occurred to me that I might want that, but one day they contacted me and said that because my ebook had been a consistent bestseller with them, they would like to do a complimentary audiobook of The Crafty Poet.  Of course, I said, Sure!

A month or so later the audiobook was finished. The recording was done by Lily Ricciardi, one of eBookit's professional readers. She has a beautiful voice and did a great job. The book is reproduced in its entirety except, of course, for the Table of Contents, the bio notes, and the Index.

I wondered initially how someone might use an audiobook of this sort, as opposed to, say, a novel. But it seems that people are enjoying it as they go walking and as they pound away on the treadmill. Some listen and learn in bed. Someone told me she begins her morning writing session by listening for 10 minutes; what she hears then inspires her writing that day. Excellent! Others listen while traveling in the car or plane. Obviously, I had a lot to learn about audiobooks.

This audiobook of The Crafty Poet is available at Amazon. It's free along with an additional free audiobook if you sign up for a free trial of Audible. If you just want to buy it outright, it's priced at $17.46. Odd price, but that's it.  Of course, the print book is still available if you don't yet have that. Either way, print, ebook, or audiobook, you get lots of craft tips by some of our finest contemporary poets, model poems and prompts, bonus prompts, and Q&As about individual poems with the poets who wrote the poems.

Visit any of The Crafty Poet pages to hear a sample of the audiobook.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Some Revision Ideas for Poetry Month

I'm posting here the Craft Tip I contributed to my craft book, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. You might find it helpful as you work on new poems this month. You might also find it useful for working on poems you wrote months, or even years, ago. Enjoy! And prosper!

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Craft Tip #29: Making More of Revision

During revision discussions, we poets hear a lot about compression, reducing clutter, and cutting out the non-essential. Who hasn’t sat in a poetry class or workshop and been told that less is more? So when someone tells us to add more, to expand, to keep going, we might be hesitant to pay attention.

But we should pay attention. The less-is-more principle is often good advice, but it’s not always good advice. As I once heard Mark Doty say, Sometimes more is more.

Too often we start revising and hacking away at the poem before it’s even fully written. We quit before we’ve given the poem life, before we’ve discovered its full potential, before we’ve found its real material.

Stephen Dunn addresses the topic of revision in a 2007 interview in The Pedestal Magazine:

          A fairly new experience that I’ve been having is revision as expansion. Most
          of us know about revision as an act of paring down. Several years ago, in
          looking at my work, I saw that I was kind of a page or page and a half kind of
          poet, which meant that I was thinking of closure around the same time in every
          poem. I started to confound that habit. By mid-poem, I might add a detail that the   
          poem couldn’t yet accommodate. That’s especially proven to be an interesting
          and useful way of revising poems that seem too slight or thin; to add something,
          put an obstacle in. The artificial as another way to arrive at the genuine—an old
          story, really.

Before you begin to strip down your poem or abandon it as no good or decide it’s good enough as it is, first consider how you might expand your poem. The following expansion strategies just might help you to discover your poem’s true potential and arrive at the genuine.

1. Choose a single poem by someone else, one that has strong diction. Take ten words from that poem and, in no particular order, plug them into your own draft. Make them make sense within the context of your poem, adjusting your context as needed. Or let the words introduce an element of the strange, a touch of the surreal.

2. Find the lifeless part of your poem. This is often the part where your mind begins to wander when you read the poem aloud. Open up space there and keep on writing in that space. Repeat elsewhere if needed. Remember that freewriting can occur not only while drafting but also while revising.

3. Find three places in the poem where you could insert a negative statement. Then go into the right margin of your draft and write those statements. Add them to the poem. By being contrary, you might add depth and richness to the poem.

4. Go into the right margin and write some kind of response to each line, perhaps its opposite, perhaps a question. The material that you add to the right margin just might be your best material, the real material. Bring what works into the poem. Make friends with the right margin; good things happen out there.

5. Put something into your poem that seemingly doesn’t belong, perhaps some kind of food, a tree, a piece of furniture, a policeman, or a dog. Elaborate.

6. Add a color and exploit it throughout the poem. This is often a surprisingly effective enlivening strategy, one that can alter the tone of the poem.

7. Go metaphor crazy. Add ten metaphors or similes to the poem. Keep the keepers.

8. Look up the vocabulary of an esoteric subject that has nothing to do with your poem. The subject might be mushroom foraging, astronomy, cryogenics, perfume-making, bee keeping, the Argentinian tango, or zombies. Make a list of at least ten words. Include a variety of parts of speech. Import the words into your poem. Develop as needed.

9. Pick any one concrete object in your poem and personify it throughout the poem. For example, if there’s a rock, give it feelings, let it observe and think, give it a voice. As the object comes alive, so may the poem.

10. Midway or two-thirds into your poem, insert a story, perhaps something from the newspaper, a book you’ve read, a fable, or a fairy tale. Don’t use the entire story, just enough of it to add some texture and weight to your poem. Your challenge is to find the connection between this new material and what was already in the poem.

Now go into your folder of old, abandoned poems, the ones you gave up on when you decided they just weren’t going anywhere. Then get out some of your recent poems that feel merely good enough, the ones that never gave you that jolt of excitement we get when a poem is percolating. Finally, return to some of the poems that you’ve submitted and submitted with no success, those poor rejects.

Mark all of these poems as once again in progress. Now apply some of the expansion strategies and see if you can breathe new life into the poems. Remember that this kind of revision is not a matter of merely making the poem longer; it’s a matter of making the poem better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Girl Talk: A Poetry Reading in Celebration of Women's History Month

Please join us if you're in the area. Lots of poetry, cookies, books!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

From Manuscript to Book: Editing and Revising

All manuscripts accepted for publication by Terrapin Books are carefully edited. Several months before I plan to publish the book, I send instructions to the poet on how to prepare the manuscript for editing. I then go through the manuscript and mark it up with red comments. I send it back to the poet who then makes the fixes and returns the manuscript to me.

Typically, we go back and forth a few times, negotiating, discussing, agreeing, disagreeing, and eventually arriving at the final version of the manuscript. (Well, not quite final as there are invariably some additional errors that reveal themselves once the book is formatted and returned to the poet for proofreading.)

Following is a Q&A I conducted with Michael T. Young about the editing and revising process we engaged in with his forthcoming book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water. It should give you a good behind-the-scenes peek at what goes into book production at Terrapin Books.

Diane:  I recall that when I accepted your manuscript I right away suggested a structural change, that is, I suggested that your three sections become five. Do you recall why I made that suggestion? How did you implement it and to what effect? How difficult was it to make that change?

Michael:  Yes, I recall you felt the poems were dense and thought-provoking and, consequently, that some extra space could help them. This change made sense to me since I intend my poems to be thought-provoking. Grouping them into shorter sections would provide greater thematic focus and, at the same time, more intervals in which the reader could digest all they elicit.

I tackled the restructuring by rereading the whole collection and looking for additional thematic arcs within each section. Given that the original first two sections were rather long and the final section rather short, I focused on those first two sections. It was somewhat easy to break these into four sections with coherent thematic arcs. The first section was the easiest, requiring no shuffling of the poems. The other three new sections required a little tinkering with the order of poems both within and across sections to give them coherence. This was also influenced by the need to reorder poems from the final section which had an abundance of poems with water imagery. Moving those poems across the other three prior sections helped create connections across sections and filled in gaps within sections that were wanting. The process was somewhat slow since every reshuffling required I reread entire sections and try to hear both the individual pieces and how the whole related.

Diane:  Early on I was also concerned about your overuse of light images and the repetition of the word light. Were you aware of the excess when you assembled the collection? How did you go about fixing this? How did those edits change the manuscript?

Michael:  I’ve always had a penchant for light and related images. Even my previous two collections have an abundance of such images. When one is publishing individual poems in journals this is, of course, not an issue. It’s only an issue when assembling a collection.

I employed a number of approaches to handle the abundance of light references and light images in The Infinite Doctrine of Water. In some instances, I moved a poem to a different location to soften its resonance with other poems that had similar imagery. In some instances, I changed a word or simply deleted it. In still other instances I changed the word light or an image of light to darkness or some related image that was opposite. These changes resulted in a more dynamic relationship among all the poems in the book, even those that use light images. As Donald Justice wrote, “To shine is to be surrounded by the dark.”

Diane:  Point of view was another issue. I noticed an excessive reliance on first person I. Tell us how you addressed this point of view issue. How did the changes you made affect the collection?

Michael:  This abundance wasn’t as difficult to correct as the use of light. A few of the poems were in first person in only a minor way. That is, a few of them had a first person pronoun in only one sentence but the rest of the poem made no direct reference to the speaker. Removing the single first person pronoun from these poems was rather easy. This, combined with reshuffling some of the other second and third person poems from the final section throughout the rest of the collection, provided for a balance the collection didn’t have in its original form. I was very grateful to rework this aspect of the book through the editing process.

Diane:  I also made editorial suggestions for a number of individual poems. What kinds of changes did I suggest? Were you always agreeable? Give us a few examples of poems that were revised during this process of preparing your manuscript for book form.

Michael:  Suggested changes ranged from comma insertions and stanza breaks to changes of diction and a few line deletions. I wasn’t always amenable to changes. For instance, with the poem “Sage.” This poem contained the word light and you suggested it be removed and another word used. But I felt any alternatives I came up with didn’t say exactly what needed to be said or failed rhythmically to keep with the tone of the poem. It was one of the few that I didn’t change.

But there were a number of good changes made. For instance, in “Close Reading,” we changed the word skirred to skirted. Although skirred was the more precise word, it is unfamiliar and likely to have been read as a typo by readers. This was something you pointed out and I thought it was a reasonable assumption. So the change seemed a good one.

A few concluding lines were removed altogether, as in the poems “Setting Fires” and “Paperclip.” Both these poems were afflicted by my old habit of providing the reader with a kind of summation which dampened what was otherwise a strong poem. Removing such summations allowed the poems to resolve in a strong image.

Diane:  Your original title was Turpentine. I recall saying that while I very much liked the poem from which that title was taken, I didn’t think it fit or did enough work for the collection. I suggested several other possibilities. What made you choose The Infinite Doctrine of Water?

Michael:  The Infinite Doctrine of Water was another title I had been considering. In fact, when I prepare manuscripts for submission, I often prepare both a full-length collection and a chapbook to send to publishers. In preparing the chapbook which corresponded to this full-length collection, I was using the title The Infinite Doctrine of Water for that chapbook.

Like light, water also is a very important image to me and moves throughout all my poetry. So the change was really an easy one. In fact, as soon as we changed it and were, at the same time, in the midst of revising and reordering, it became immediately obvious that “The Voice of Water” was the ideal final poem for the collection, when originally it was earlier in the final section. Additionally, would it be too much to say that as soon as we changed the title, ideas for the book cover flooded my mind? For all these reasons, the title change seemed immediately right.

Michael T. Young is the author of two previous poetry collections, The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost (Poets Wear Prada, 2014) and Transcriptions of Daylight (Rattapallax Press, 2000). He is also the author of the chapbooks, Living in the Counterpoint (Finishing Line Press, 2013), winner of the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award, and Because the Wind Has Questions (Somers Rocks Press, 1997). His work has been published in such journals as Cimarron Review, The Cortland Review, Little Patuxent Review, Potomac Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He is a past recipient of a poetry fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and has been featured on Verse Daily.

Michael’s book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, will be released on April 1. It is now available for

Monday, February 26, 2018

Terrapin Books at AWP

I look forward to meeting some of you in person at AWP. Please stop by the Terrapin Books' table #536 and say hello. I'll be at the table Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Here's what else I'll be doing:

Thursday morning, 9:00 AM - 10:15 AM
. Panel.Topic: "Beyond Queues and Fees: Poetry Books Outside the Contest Model." Rachel Mennies is the moderator, panelists are Dan Brady, Katie Hoerth, Diane Lockward, and Marcos Marti­nez. Location: Marriott Waterside, Grand Salon B, Second Floor, Room 109

Thursday evening, 7 PM - 9 PM
. Hosting a Terrapin reading on at The Tampa Club, 101 East Kennedy Blvd, in the Rotunda Room. Snacks and a cash bar. Four poets with new books from my press will each read briefly from their books:

Karen Paul Holmes, from No Such Thing as Distance
Susanna Lang, from Travel Notes from the River Styx
Hayden Saunier, from How to Wear This Body
Geraldine Connolly, from Aileron

Then nine poets from The Book of Donuts will read:

Lynn Domina
Emily Rose Cole
Patricia Clark
Anne Harding Woodworth
Cal Freeman
Elizabeth O'Brien
Tina Kelley
Mira Rosenthal
Faisal Mohuyuddin
Friday. Book Signings
: Five of my poets will be signing books. Schedule is as follows:

       Table 536

       Karen Paul Holmes: 10:30 - 11:00
       Hayden Saunier      11:30 - 12:00
       Susanna Lang        1:00 - 1:30
       Geraldine Connolly    2:00 - 2:30
       Patricia Clark       3:00 - 3:30

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Story Behind the Cover

As the publisher of Terrapin Books, I like to ask each of my poets what they have in mind for a cover. Although I reserve the right to turn down suggested artwork, so far that hasn’t happened and each Terrapin poet has had input on their cover art. For example, Neil Carpathios’ cover for Confessions of a Captured Angel was done by his wife, a graphic designer. Christine Stewart-Nunez’s cover for Bluewords Greening was designed by her former student. Patricia Clark’s cover art for The Canopy was contributed by her husband, a painter. Hayden Saunier festooned her own black coat with greens from her yard and a set of antlers, then hung the coat on a wall and took a photo of it. I extracted the background and replaced it with a solid blue background. The result is a cover much like a piece of surrealistic art.

When I asked Geraldine Connolly what she envisioned for the cover of her forthcoming book, Aileron, she suggested a farmhouse. I began to hunt for one, but didn’t find anything special enough. Then one day while wasting my time on Facebook, I saw some unusual pieces of art coming down the feed—“feather art” by feather artist, Lewis Mark Grimes. I sent several images to Gerry and asked what she thought of them. Following is a discussion of what transpired from that point on in our search for the perfect cover.

Diane: Tell us what the word “aileron” means and why your first thought for your cover art was a farmhouse?

Gerry: An aileron is a small hinged surface—a flap—on an airplane wing, used to control balance.

 It was difficult for me to think of a way to incorporate that technical concept into a concrete image for the book cover. Airy images are hard to translate into solid pictures.

A photo of an airplane wing didn’t seem quite right because the reader might see only the wing and not see or understand where the small flap was and what it meant to the flight of the plane.

The main theme of Aileron is the loss of a cherished family farm to a large company and how to deal with that emotional loss, to rise above it. So that’s why I thought a photo of a farmhouse might work. I spent a couple of days looking through stock photos of farmhouses, but something was always wrong, the setting, the color of the barn, the crops in the field were not quite right. And I couldn’t find a photo of our particular farm, so I felt a little frustrated.

After weeks of obsessing over commas, capitals, misspellings, spacing issues, the acknowledgments page, the title page, the author’s page, all of a sudden when you asked what I had in mind for a book cover, I was kind of panicked. Vague thoughts of airplane wings and photos of farmhouses were floating in my mind, but I was actually floored. I knew that I really liked the Terrapin covers I’d seen, so I hoped you might be helpful there, and thankfully you were!

Diane: When I sent you the pieces of feather art, you wrote back that you’d stick with the farmhouse or a barn. Why?

Gerry: When you first sent ideas for cover art, I think there were seven images, five pieces with feathers plus one barn and one abstract painting. Seeing all seven together confused me a little because they were so different, so I clung to the idea of something that was an exact representation of a farm, which was a farmhouse or a barn. And the barn had happy associations for me, of safety and security. When I looked out the windows of our farmhouse, that’s what I often looked at, the big white barn and the silo next to it, the fields beyond. As a child, I loved the soft hay, the smell of the bales and oilcans and the animals, the texture of the old beams and the wood floor, the patterns of light and shadow. So yes, I clung to the idea of the farmhouse or barn. But I’m glad we found something more upbeat and visually exciting.

Diane: A few days later you emailed and said that one of the pieces was “haunting” you. What was responsible for that haunting?

Gerry: When I again looked over the seven art pieces that you’d sent in one file, I could see that the barn was, in fact, boring. You sent a print of one single feather, a couple of images of dream catchers (those nets with trailing feathers) and at the very bottom, two pieces of artwork done with molted feathers by Lewis Mark Grimes. I liked those two pieces best because they seemed unique, but I still had the barn idea fixed firmly in my head. I spent another day looking at stock photos of barns and feeling less and less satisfied with that idea. I looked at all of the images again that evening and decided, as they say, “to sleep on it.”

I woke up the next morning with the image in my mind of the white feathers exploding from a sea of blue dots. If it was strong enough to wake me, I thought, that’s a good sign. All day the image stayed with me. It “haunted” me in a very good way, so I decided to seriously consider it. The covers of my three previous books were lovely, but very conservative and representational. I thought a departure to something more abstract and mysterious might be refreshing. I showed the image to my husband and he loved it too. “Feathers,” he said, “which remind me of flight, of wings, of airplane wings, that’s perfect.” And when I looked at it metaphorically, I saw in that explosion of wings, a suggestion of Hiroshima, a tragedy, which suited the theme of losing the farm to a mining company.

Diane: I was similarly haunted, so I tracked down the artist to find out if we could get permission to use the piece. He said yes! While Lewis and I then worked out the licensing agreement, I did a sample front cover layout, that white feather image shaped like a fan against a black background. What was your first response to the initial design? Did we make any changes to it?

Gerry: The background was black and I’ve always liked black covers with a brighter color for the images and typeface. When you isolated that image and did a sample first cover, I was convinced that the image was perfect. Not representational, and so radiant and striking. Everyone I showed it to had strong positive reactions. Comments about the cover included words like “mysterious,” “vivid,” “engaging,” “spectacular.” I felt more and more sure that it was the right decision, and I was very happy that the artist gave us permission to use the piece.

The only change I suggested was making the print of the title a little larger. There was no doubt in my mind that this was exactly the right mood and message that I wanted to convey about my book. The design was so compelling and so suitable that very little change was necessary.

Diane: The cover we ended up with isn’t even remotely similar to the initial idea of a farmhouse, yet it strikes me as metaphorically perfect for your book. How do you see this cover as fitting your book?

Gerry: Sometimes your first ideas are your best ideas. Sometimes, they’re your worst. I trusted myself on an intuitive level with the decision to use the feather art and, after my initial reluctance, it turned out extremely well.

The elements of air rule this collection: birds, wings, trees. The central metaphor of the aileron on an airplane wing, which controls balance, suggests the importance of not surrendering to sadness but finding new direction, staying aloft above the blue dots which suggest sadness so that the white feathers lifting upward as in a fan connect with the theme beautifully. A lot of the book is about staying in balance even amidst trouble and an immense sense of loss. It was important to me that the final poem lift upward. When we discussed the ordering of the poems, there was thought given to ending the book with a poem that contains the image of a horse pulling freight into midnight’s darkness, but that seemed entirely wrong. The decision to end on a pleasing memory of a swing from my childhood that elevates the mood up and out into the world seemed fitting.

The collection is firmly rooted in the natural world, the landscapes of a Pennsylvania childhood, of Montana summers and a move to the Sonoran Desert which offers a strange but healing landscape, a mixture of oddness and wonder that, in fact, Lewis Mark Grimes’ work of art also conveys. It was a beautiful synchronicity and I couldn’t be happier with the cover. So much time is put into crafting the poems, revising them, arranging them in the best way for an effective narrative, but so little thought is given until the very last moment about the cover which is, of course, the reader’s first impression of the book. I like the idea of the reader being introduced to my book with this beautiful and original design. Thank you, Diane, for helping me find the way to it.

Geraldine Connolly is a native of western Pennsylvania and the author of three previous poetry collections: Food for the Winter (Purdue University Press), Province of Fire (Iris Press), and Hand of the Wind (Iris Press) as well as a chapbook, The Red Room (Heatherstone Press). She is the recipient of two NEA creative writing fellowships in poetry, a Maryland Arts Council fellowship, and the W.B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Prize. She was the Margaret Bridgman Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and has had residencies at Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Chautauqua Institute. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, and Shenandoah. Her work has also been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and anthologized in Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, Sweeping Beauty: Poems About Housework, and The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Gerry’s book, Aileron, will be released on March 1. It is now available for Pre-orders.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Terrapin Books Is Open for Submissions

I am happy to announce that my poetry press, Terrapin Books, is currently open for submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts. Please note that our submission period closes on February 28, 2018.

Be sure to read our Guidelines before submitting. Please note that we request both a bio and a descriptive statement with your submission. Be sure to include both. Most questions are answered in our FAQs, so be sure to read that page also.

Our Guidelines ask for a manuscript of approximately 40-55 poems for a book of approximately 90-110 pages (count includes poems, front and back matter, and section pages). Please note that your book will be longer than your manuscript. If you have 40-55 poems, go ahead and submit. Let us worry about book length.

Here's some general information about the press:

We publish only poetry books, primarily single-author collections but also an occasional craft book or anthology.

Terrapin Books is committed to publishing outstanding books of poetry by outstanding poets. We intend to fully support our poets. We will edit your manuscript and work with you on revisions. We expect our poets to actively engage in promoting their books. We require our poets to maintain a dedicated website and to be a member of Facebook.

Our books are 6 x 9, paperback, perfect bound, color cover, with printed spine (poet's name, title, press).

We are committed to publishing accepted titles within six months of acceptance. We do not maintain a long list of books-in-waiting.

We offer a standard contract, a generous number of author copies, a substantial discount on additional copies purchased by the author, and an annual royalty payment.

We are the proud publisher of collections by Neil Carpathios, Lynne Knight, Christine Stewart-Nunez, Jessica de Koninck, Carolyn Miller, Patricia Clark, Susanna Lang, Hayden Saunier, Michelle Menting, and Karen Paul Holmes. We look forward to books by Geraldine Connolly (March) and Michael T. Young (April).

We welcome submissions from poets at any stage in their career. Some of our poets have a long publication history with multiple books. A few of our poets have two books out. And we are very proud to be the publisher of two debut collections.

We look forward to reading your work.

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