|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
(If these seem to be a bit repetitive just think of them as as those fliers, cards, and notes that pile up on bulletin boards. I'll take down anything that no longer applies, but while they're pertinent...)
1. I am a believer in the never ending process of learning. In that cause I would like to put out an invitation to poets living in the Ventura, California area. Wednesday nights, for the next seven weeks, at 7 PM in Ventura at the Vita Art Center, 432 North Ventura Avenue, there will be an ongoing poetry workshop. This is a great opportunity to sharpen your craft and gather with other writers in the pursuit of excellence.
2. I have never done this before so I'm still figuring out my proverbial butt from a hole in the ground. What I am proposing is a poetry contest. Before you get to crazy, I am initially aiming this at the Southern California area. Perhaps later I can expand my reach but I'm still trying to get the ins and outs figured and would appreciate suggestions from anyone who has done this, or anything remotely similar, before.
Feel free to contact me about either of these announcements at the e-mail address listed at the bottom of the post.
NOW ON WITH THE SHOW
WRITING TO THE PROMPT
More Of That Stretching Yourself Stuff I Keep Hawking
I just finished participating in an interesting six week open mic venue in Ojai (Oh-Hi), California. To say Ojai is a bit off the beaten path as far as poetry goes is not really true. Yes, it is away from the coastal cities that dominate Southern California. But it has been known for a century as an eclectic collection of spiritualism, arts, and eccentric money.
The program was organized by Tree Bernstein of TreeHouse Press in Ojai. The premise was simple, the program was held at Bart's Books over a period of six successive Sundays in April and May. Each Sunday had a loose prompt that was open to the reader/writer's interpretation.
I don't know if you've ever given much time to writing to a prompt but they can be interesting and highly challenging. What's a prompt? Simply, it is a word or phrase used to steer you in a particular direction while stimulating your imagination. Prompts are often used in fiction writing classes and seminars. A good example of the types of prompts used for fiction writing can be seen here. These are fairly detailed compared to those provided by Ms. Bernstein. We wrote to such wide ranging themes as Scripture and Cheesecake, Axis of Ennui, and Evidence Suggests.
But why take part in something like this? After all, haven't you got enough of your own ideas? Why box yourself into something that may not even resonate with you? Precisely because of that! We all become quite comfortable in our little bastions. Churning out things when the muse strikes. Our subjects and style, our choice of language and grammatical patterns all become an intrinsic part of our poetic voice. We have been told time and again to develop authenticity in that voice. So, why dance to someone else's tune?
Simply because, if you have written long enough and frequently enough, your voice may need a little freshening. (Hey, you brush your teeth regularly, correct? How about knocking the cobwebs of that voice before it, too, gets morning after stale!) If you aren't active in some type of writing community where you have the chance to sit down to a little open critical assessment then you may not even notice it. I was apprised of the fact that I was reading a lot of poetry on the theme of personal mortality lately. I tell you, I felt like dying right there. Kidding aside, I had gotten into a rut and simply hadn't noticed it. With everything there is to write about I was harping on a single theme. I was doing it in several ways, but it was still a single track.
Writing to the prompt can help break these monotonous streaks. (Come on, not everyone is just hanging off the edge of their seat waiting for your next, 'I HATE THE GOVERNMENT', rant!) They can force us to think about other subjects and themes and broaden our scope. They can also force us to look at other writers who have dealt with these same ideas and, if you get your damned ego to quiet down a bit, we might even learn something. Mostly, they force you out of yourself and stretch your literary reach beyond that snugly spot in the corner of your imagination. They force you to get off your dead ass and work at writing!
If you're interested in trying a bit (Or a whole big damned bunch!) of this type of exercise on the prose side, I suggest you locate a copy of THE WRITER'S IDEA BOOK, by Jack Heffron. This is a virtual trove of prompts for everything from the paragraph, to the chapter, to the short story, and more. I own it, I use it, and I recommend it. That should cover it.
Better than this, find yourself a writer's group that does more than hang out together. Find one that is earnestly trying to improve its overall output by challenging each other to exercise the old gray matter. Ever been in the same room with a bunch of flabby brains? It's the type of experience that can scare you into the church. Don't let this happen to you!
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis