Sunday, December 27, 2009

Less Than Sublime is an Almost Rhyme

By David Sennema

Call me crazy, eccentric, or an old fuddy-duddy if you want, but I've
got a problem with people who write verse or ads or songs that purport to rhyme but don't. I call them "almost rhymes" but nearly, faulty, flawed, defective, deficient or not quite, would do just as well.

Just listen closely the next time you hear someone singing a song
written in the last ten or twenty years and you'll see what I mean. Those turkeys are trying to pass off as rhyming all kinds of words that vaguely sound like each other. They contend, for instance, that comin' rhymes with gunnin', Atlanta with banana, hurt with work, cats with that, chill with build, and on and on.

Mr. Webster, who presumably still has some credibility as an expert in
the matter, tells us that a rhyme is "a piece of verse, or poem, in which
there is a regular recurrence of corresponding sounds, esp. at the ends of lines." I am here to declare that "th" and "st" are not corresponding sounds.

Of course there are those who fudge the rhyming by indulging in a practice, represented by the horrible word, “assonance,” which is defined as “a partial rhyme in which the stressed vowel sounds are alike but the consonant sounds are unlike, as in late and make." Partial rhyme indeed!

Woe is me, what a legacy we're losing. Think of some of the great
lyricists of the past and what they were able to do with words. Do you
remember the Gershwins and their wonderful, lovely, rhyming words?

Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you,
Embrace me, you irreplaceable you.

Or Cole Porter?

You're the top! You're the Colosseum,
You're the top! You're the Louvre Museum.

And then there was the poet Ogden Nash who won me over with this
little two-liner:

Candy is dandy,
But liquor is quicker.

The limerick is often looked down upon as the red-headed stepchild of
verse, but the writers, often anonymous, knew how to rhyme not only the first, second, and fifth lines with each other, but also the third line with the fourth.

A collegiate damsel named Breeze,
Weighed down by B.A.'s and Litt. D.'s,
Collapsed from the strain.
Alas, it was plain
She was killing herself by degrees.

Here's another example of rhyming-with-a-smile by Ogden Nash.

Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.

Do me this little favor. If you're planning on doing some writing,
and that writing requires rhyming, let me urge you to stop by your local
bookstore and pick up a rhyming dictionary. It will make you a better person and save me a lot of grief.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

When Inspiration Fades to Intimidation

By Beth Cotten

Many years ago when I was in high school, I wrote a poem that was chosen to be published in an annual review of high school students throughout the city. The submissions varied and included poetry, essays, short stories, and other types of short literary works. The review itself was small and though I can’t recall with certainty, it seems there were less than fifty submissions that made it into the booklet. I believe the name of the booklet was "The Quill." All students whose work was selected were invited by the sponsoring association to an evening event to honor the participants and winners. We were asked to dress for the occasion, which translated into clothes you would wear to church. I was excited and proud to be included.

My English teacher had encouraged the students in my class to submit something. My poem was about a fawn, standing in a forest, alone on a misty morning. I can’t find a copy of the poem and can’t even recall the title of the poem, much less the poem itself. I do recall it rhymed and had about four stanzas. I kept it for many years in my hope chest with other "important" papers; one of which was the Certificate of Award for my poem.

Since I became of member of SCWW, I have thought occasionally of that poem. I have even put together random thoughts about "poetic" issues I might choose to write about. But after trying to put these ideas into a written format, and reflecting on some of the poetry which our members have written and read to us during our workshops, I feel a sense of hopelessness to even begin to tackle such an effort. We have some TERRIFIC poets in our midst! Look at those who have had their poetry published! Their writings are beautiful and sensitive and inspirational. As I listen to these works, my enthusiasm fades to hesitation and my inspiration to intimidation.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Latest Addition

Meet A New Writer


Kimberly Johnson, a former journalist, has written for newspapers with articles focusing on health care, and education. Currently, Kimberly pens book reviews and gardening articles for a local magazine. Kimberly’s writing background includes stints as a technical writer for a software company, marketing assistant for a nonprofit agency and food columnist for a weekly newspaper.

In the education field, Kimberly taught business courses, computer classes and career development seminars at a job training center. She helped adult learners answer the age-old question “How Do I Get a Job?” through career counseling. Kimberly is a past member of Toastmasters where she held leadership positions.

Future Goal: To create a writing lab to educate the community on basic writing skills

Theme songs: "Back In Black" by ACDC; "Ain’t Gonna Stop" by James Otto

Favorite Authors: Jonathan Kellerman, Lolita Files, Elmore Leonard, Stephen J. Cannell, Janet Evanovich, Kwei Quartey

Kimberly's first posting follows.

Finding Your Audience

By Kimberly Johnson

"Heck, I can’t find them. Am I doing something wrong?”

Finding an audience for your creative composition or your nonfiction narrative can be irritating. It’s like searching for matching socks in the laundry basket. At times, the writer avoids the chore of sorting through his basket and matching up the right reader with the right content.

So, the writer grabs the nearest socks and ties them together by musing, “My book is for the science fiction crowd.” “They understand my work.” “I don’t have to explain it.”

That’s a pretty large crowd. How do you appeal to all the science fiction readers…or match up the right socks.

Try these three steps:

Step 1: Ask the important questions.
• Who is your audience?
• What do you want them to know, believe, or feel after they read it?
• When and where will they read it?
• Why will they read it?
• What does your audience believe?
• How do you establish rapport with the audience?

Knowing your audience allows the writing process to become easier, according to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Education Center. This simplifies the decision when it comes to tone, setting, character development and dialogue. If you select a target audience, the reader can relate or even enjoy the different perspective. Keep in mind, if you do not have a target audience, you may miss your intention or message. Your reader will not have a stake or a “buy in.” Think about it….if the editor doesn’t get it; will the buying public get it?

Take note: Melissa Donovan of Writing Forward adds that agents and publishers depend on a well-defined audience. “Publication is the point where your art shifts into business mode. It’s the stage when you say, ‘I want to do this for a living and make money doing it.’ That means you’re going to have to sell and anytime you’re selling anything, you need to know to whom you’re selling it.”

Step 2: Don’t assume the reader understands your material.
The introduction is the place to cultivate your relationship with the reader. The introduction provides you a chance to introduce the reader to your style. The reader feels secure that you are being “up front” with him. He becomes familiar with your style, quirks and all. The reader can decide whether he or she wants to forge the relationship or…move on to another writer.

Step 3: Identify your target audience.
According to Karl Wallace at Hunter College’s Reading and Writing Center, the writer should create a profile list or database outlining the targeted reader. For example, ask yourself: What type of education, economic, or social background does your reader need to understand your text? Is your book focusing on senior citizens? How do you plan to keep loyalty if you have written other books?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Latest Addition

Meet a New Writer


I have always written bad poetry, reams of it. Lucky for us all, I discovered the joys and frequent frustrations of writing prose two-and-a-half years ago. Since then, I have been working on my first, and still untitled, novel. It is about the relationship between an expatriate returning to her homeland; a denizen who is trying to flee that same land; and the land itself. Conveniently this land is my homeland, Nigeria.

My other addictions include the Los Angeles Lakers and exotic cars.

When I am not a tights-wearing-metaphor-wielding-writing superhero, I am a senior consultant on a large software project in Columbia.

Mayo's first posting follows.

Sacrifice and Robotics

By Mayowa Atte

You have a story, a dollop of your inner pudding that you have decided to share with the world. You have outlines, notes, character bios, plot sketches and countless late night/early morning/during showers/during meals/during anything ponderings. More importantly, you have words -- a line or ten thousand of blessed prose that you are sure will destroy the reader’s world and make it anew. There is only one problem; you can’t seem to write enough, can’t make significant progress, can’t finish.

Why is it so hard to finish? Two dragons guard the road to writing productivity; the first is a lack of time to write. With day jobs, night jobs, families, friends, church, lovers and pets it’s a miracle that anyone ever finishes a draft. The other is the writer’s mental attitude; there is enough time to write but you don’t feel like writing. Maybe you are like me and your writing productivity mirrors your love life, or you want to spend your one free hour watching the Lakers. The truth is that there will always be something else, someone else, and someplace else that needs or demands your attention.

How do you finish then? How do you reach the half-naked pleasure of that last page? The answer lies in Sacrifice and Robotics. To slay the first dragon, you take one of the many other things that require or demand your attention and you sacrifice it. You wake up an hour earlier every day or stay in instead of going out with friends. You sacrifice a favorite TV show or order takeout instead of making dinner. Maybe you tell your boss that you absolutely have to reduce your overtime (please proceed along this path with caution).

To slay the second dragon, you find your best writing atmosphere (place, time, noise level, etc.) and you write in that atmosphere on an unbreakable schedule (using time carved out with your sacrifices). The goal is to make writing robotic, more than a habit, but an automatic, ingrained activity that you perform whether or not you are in the creative mood, regardless of the state of your love life, or how happy, restless, horny, sad, bored…anyhow you feel. Sacrifice and Robotics.

Why will you sacrifice the things and people that are dear to you? Why will you turn the writing you do for pleasure into another must-do task? The answer lies in another question, why are you writing? Why must you tell this story? Do you need to right a social wrong? Do you want your bodice ripper to be a national guilty pleasure? Do you want additional income or a cadre of adoring female MFA students? Whatever your reason, it has to be strong enough to make these sacrifices worthwhile.

It is impossible to make all these sacrifices or adopt every good writing habit but one or two is doable and will bring immense benefits. On most days in August, I left work on time, went straight to the same coffee shop and wrote for a few hours before going home. That month, I went way over my food budget, gained seven pounds (lost my gym time), frustrated my boss and alienated a few friends and romantic interests.

I wrote more in those 31 days than I had in the previous eight months.