Shelley Widhalm

Archive for December, 2016|Monthly archive page

Merry Christmas (and happy writing)!

In Loving Writing, Reflections on Writing, The Writing Life, Writing on December 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

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I’m showing off one of my gifts from Christmas 2015.

I want to wish my followers and readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2017.

I’ve enjoyed writing about the writing process, my ups and downs with writing and my life as a writer over the past few years.

Writing is a way to escape into a poem or story, play with language, capture experience and grow from seeing the world in different ways by finding new words, descriptions and visions, or ways of seeing, feeling and observing things.

I love when I’m in a coffee shop or on a walk and a poem strikes me, compelling me to find a piece of paper and start writing. I’ve gathered bits of napkins and pieces of paper over the years that I typed into my rolling poetry collection, which consists of all of my poems in one large document that’s too large for a chapbook or book of poetry.

I also love when I’m stuck in a short story or novel and meet up with friends for a writing session and feel like, um, I better write. So, I start writing and words come out even though what I write may not be the best—at least I’m writing and doing it. Oftentimes, I may write stuff to later cut, but I find that I’m moving forward in the story or figuring out something with plot or character.

My last love about writing that I’ll mention is how I may start off with a short story and somehow it becomes a novella, because I seem to not get to the story answer. This makes me wonder if the characters have more to say than I planned for, because I try to write my stories in one sitting session. Or it may be that I don’t know what I’m doing in this particular story and have things to learn about plot and character development.

Either way, it makes me feel a little stuck in my head and my own processes. Because I like to write without plotting, I decided for my next novel, I’m going to plot because that endless writing and not getting to the solution is a little painful, even if it is fun.

I hope you also had a fun year with writing.

And here’s to a great year of writing in 2017.

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Poetry readings and vacations

In Giving a Poetry Reading, Poetry Readings, Writing, Writing Poetry on December 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

PoeticGeography6 2016Reading poetry aloud is like taking a mini-vacation.

I read two of my winter-themed poems Thursday during “On a Snowy Evening,” a seasonal poetry reading at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in Loveland, Colo. The 1 ½-hour event featured poetry, storytelling and song during an open mic and a reading with nine artists presenting their work.

Their work focused on the winter solstice and the cold, ice and snow—liking or waiting for it—and getting Christmas cards and presents. Two of the poems on the solstice called it the darkest and the longest night of the year. Two more poems focused on a meditation on December and a meditation on winter. And one of the poems called the season “winter dessert.”

There also was a story about a local townsman’s dream of creating a one-horse opened sleigh and a story about getting the wrong Christmas present that ended up causing envy among schoolmates.

The poems, stories and songs were beautiful, descriptive and imaginative, giving delight to the feel of winter. They expressed so many different perspectives on winter I felt the season could be as wonderful and dashing as the holiday pop songs present it.

I read two of my poems, both about my not liking winter (though the snow is pretty, and getting and sending Christmas cards is joyful). The poems are “Fall Back, Winter” and “Just tell me about the wind.”

Before I read, I took off my scarf, saying, “This is not a performance,” and got a laugh. As I read my poems—we each got five minutes—I got a vacation-like escape onto the stage, where I focused on the audience and the words I’d written. It was a form of acting, or outward showing of the words, after they’d been written through internal reflection and observation.

Going on vacation is an escape from regular routines, gives a time to reflect on those routines and, hopefully, offers a time to experience beauty and difference. It’s a time to observe landscapes, people, environments and buildings and to think of ways to describe them, even if those descriptions aren’t written down.

I concluded my “On a snowy evening,” feeling like I traveled to a winter place, where I could write home saying, “I’m having the time of my life,” “Wish you were here” and “Greetings from far away,” just because I could see winter in a new light.

It’s not my longest, darkest day or season, but something that I can enjoy now that I found new words to describe it. That’s what vacations do, add stamps to a passport, experiences to put in a journal or photo album and new ways of seeing the world.

Poetry reading (all about winter)

In Giving a Poetry Reading, Poetry Readings, Reading Poetry on December 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

zoeysnow

My cute, darling dog, Zoey, is unsure about the snow, just as I am!

I will be reading two of my winter-themed poems Thursday, Dec. 15, during the seasonal poetry readings at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in Loveland, Colo.

The winter reading “On a Snowy Evening” will feature poems, storytelling and songs from local artists that celebrate the season of snow and the winter solstice. I will read my poems “Fall back, Winter” and “Just tell me about the wind,” both about how I really feel about winter. Let’s say, I like summer best!

I love reading my poetry to an audience for two reasons: to share what I’ve written and to get on stage—that’s because reading poetry aloud is a form of acting. Reading aloud requires the poet to slow down and experience and express the words, so that the audience can catch everything that is said.

Reading quickly (and nervously) causes those words to be lost, because poetry needs to be absorbed line by line to get the full meaning of what’s being said and the full feel of how the words come together.

For me, that means lots of practice and putting my poems in large print, so that I remember to keep the right (and slower) pace.

Here are the details of the reading, organized by poets Lynn Kincanon, Caroline Orman and Veronica Patterson:

When: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15.

Where: Foote Gallery Auditorium, Loveland Museum at Fifth Street and Cleveland Avenue.

For additional details, visit http://www.lovelandmuseumgallery.org/poetry.

Writing as puzzle solving

In Freewriting, Writing, Writing Novels, Writing Processes on December 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

Writing is like solving a puzzle, at least when approaching the story or novel without planning or forethought.

I’m a pantser writer, but I’ve decided for my next novel, I’ll engage in the planning approach. I’ll come up with an overriding idea, a beginning and an ending, and a few of the character sketches, instead of writing and seeing what happens.

Why am I going to the other side?

Writing’s become a bit painful and an emotional experience for me, where I have to face myself and how I write and process the story. I get lost in where to go next and don’t know where I’ve been. I just keep writing like I’m in a speed writing contest, when what I really want to do is write with purpose and direction. I want a plan.

By freewriting my stories and letting what happens happen, I’ve noticed how I’m trying to solve a mystery, though I’m not writing a mystery. I write myself in a corner, or multiple corners. A short story becomes a novella. A piece of flash fiction becomes a short story. A novel goes on too long past the 100,000-word mark when I want to write 80,000 words.

This get-myself-in-a-corner writing is the result of my main character needing to solve something, but I don’t let her solve it because all these other characters prop up and she has to interact with them and get through her own plot, because if I say, “Magic. Problem solved,” the reader won’t buy it.

I have to get her to the end of the story.

I have to solve how she and the characters interact to carry the plot forward through the middle all the way to the end.

But instead, I’m mired in the story, so I have to look back at what I wrote and figure out where the story is headed, picking up clues in what I’ve already written. I have to figure out the plot strands and bring them together, knowing my one basic question, while also wondering, but how do I get there?

I’m stuck in the middle and have to move backward, do some planning and thinking, and then I can get back to writing. What I do is stop, plan, and write. So am I really pantsing my novel, when I really had to middle-plan? The arc has to come full circle, not move in a straight line of writing whatever pops into my head.

That’s where the pain comes in. I’m in the middle of writing, and I have to throw my nature aside and start planning.

What is it like for you? Are you a pantser or a planner?