Shelley Widhalm

Archive for April, 2019|Monthly archive page

Write Fluff-Free (and get Clicks and Stays)

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Blogging Tips, Writing Tips on April 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Get rid of the extras to get readers to click and read, just like trying to focus on a tree in a busy Florida landscape.

Writing can get a message across, but there can be a lot of fluff, or something to skip over and move on.

The idea is to get attention—with the first sentence of a story, the headline to a blog or article, or the top item of a list. Don’t let them scroll or scan on to the next paragraph or item, but keep them locked within the body or the story. Get them to click and stay.

Want Action?

But don’t stop there. Get them to take action—either by getting lost in the storytelling and not leaving the book or wanting what you have to sell, offer, promote or persuade. What you’re doing is engaging them in the moment and leaving an impression. They remember what they read instead of letting it sift out like all the clutter in a house or office.

Cutting out writing clutter results in a clear, concise and compelling style that has spark. But how do you add spark to your writing?

You can practice and put in the time, so that writing moves from desire to habit. It’s not a one-day thing to achieving that place of great, high-quality writing. It’s a matter of discipline, motivation and inspiration.

Or, you can find someone who loves writing to do the work for you. Make sure they know the key aspects of your message, or what you want to say and hope your readers will learn, get inspired by or do.

Want Spark?

To get that spark in writing and storytelling:

  • Lead in with something new, interesting, different or compelling.
  • Keep to the topic on hand without veering off into tangents.
  • Add enough detail and description but don’t overdo it. Keep adverbs, those words ending in –ly, to a minimum.
  • Describe things using two or more senses, like sight, sound and taste.
  • Establish all of the elements of telling a story, such as setting, character, plot and dialog. This works even when talking about your business—where and when were you founded, who are the staff, what stories do they and you as the owner have to tell, and what are your favorite quotes about what you have to offer?

For action-taking, once readers and customers know you, they will be intrigued. Once they realize you can help them with their pain points, or what takes away from their own time, energy and resources, they’ll look to you as problem-solver. They’ll see you as story crafter creating The End, or I’m Sold!

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Poems Can Be About Anything (a workshop with poet Pattiann Rogers)

In National Poetry Month, Poetry, Poetry Advice, Poetry Readings, Writing, Writing Poetry on April 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

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The Regional Poets present Castle Rock poet Pattiann Rogers in a special reading and workshop April 5-6 at the Loveland Museum, “The Poetry of Earth is Ceasing Never/Wild Has Its Skills.” Rogers gives local poets advice to help them improve their craft.

A poem can be about anything, from something mundane like soda crackers to something a bit bigger like the stars.

“That’s what’s fun about it. Nobody can say, ‘That’s not right,’” said Castle Rock, Colo., poet Pattiann Rogers, author of 14 poetry books, including her latest, “Quickening Fields.”

Rogers presented a 2 ½-hour workshop April 6 about poetry techniques and ways of entering the poem as part of the Regional Poets’ effort to bring state and national poets to Loveland, Colo. The four poets, including Veronica Patterson, Lynn Kincanon, Lorrie Wolfe and Caroline Orman, organize biannual readings, followed by a workshop the next day, in April and August.

National Poetry Month

The April reading and workshop coincide with National Poetry Month, a celebration of poetry organized by the Academy of American Poets with daily suggestions for reading, writing and engaging with poetry. The idea is to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

“Part of what she brings in is the stir, chaos and grandeur of what’s going on around us,” said Patterson, Loveland’s poet laureate, about Rogers, a nature and environmental poet. “The clarification and magnification of being is what Pattiann Rogers does with all of her work.”

Rogers’ reading and workshop, “National Poetry Month Brings Pattiann Rogers to Loveland: The Poetry of Earth is Ceasing Never/Wild Has Its Skills,” made engaging with poetry fun, interesting and accessible.

“You have that freedom. That’s what drew me to poetry,” Rogers said, adding that even with fixed forms, there is freedom as long as you entice and engage with the readers. “Poetry is communication. You have to give your readers something to call them back to the poem, to engage with it.”

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Poetry Discipline

The freedom, however, requires discipline, Rogers said

“Because of the freedom, you have to discipline yourself in different ways, so you have a piece of music,” Rogers said. “When you are writing without a fixed form, you have to pay attention to accented or unaccented syllables and will it be one with your subject? You have to make the judgment yourself if you’re not writing with a fixed form to guide you.”

Rogers presented four poetry prompts for the 35 poets attending the workshop and gave them a handout with advice on titling a poem and figuring out where and how to make line and stanza breaks. She said she taught workshops for years and found students had trouble with the title.

“It can totally make a poem,” Rogers said, explaining that readers will read the title, the poem and the title again. “It can tell something important that you can’t work into the poem.”

Titles and Breaks

Rogers suggested the title shouldn’t just announce the subject but add something to the poem, indicate another level of meaning and stimulate the reader’s curiosity.

“You have to offer your readers something to pay them back for their attention and time,” Rogers said.

As for line breaks, Rogers suggested ending on a strong word in sound and meaning and in a way that enhances the poem’s tone.

“What’s it going to look like on the page? You have to have a reason for breaking the line. Where is it that you want a pause or a word to be emphasized?” Rogers said.

Stanza breaks establish “a space of silence within a poem” and can be used to set the poem’s pace, Rogers said.

“You never quit learning about craft,” Rogers said. “You make your own decisions. That’s part of the freedom.”

Spring into Poetry during National Poetry Month

In National Poetry Month, Poem-A-Day, Poem-A-Day Challenge, Poetry, Poetry Advice, Poetry Tips, Reading Poems, Writing Poetry on April 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Ducklings huddle with their mother at the edge of a lagoon in Loveland, Colo, last year during spring.

April is the best month for three reasons: baby animals start coming out, it’s my birthday and … it’s National Poetry Month.

Each day of the month, the Academy of American Poets suggests ways to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry. Today’s suggestion is to buy a book of poetry from a local bookstore.

Poetry Suggestions

Other suggestions include reading a poem at an open mic, starting a poetry reading group (I also think a poetry writing group is a great idea), reading about different poetic forms (or try writing them), signing up for a poetry class or workshop, attending a poetry reading or chalking poems on sidewalks.

April 18 is a special day, Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, encouraging the selection of a poem you love (including ones you’ve written) and carrying it with you to share with coworkers, family and friends.

“I like the fact that for one month, people are more sensitized and aware of poetry,” said Windsor, Colo., poet Lorrie Wolfe, president of the Northern Colorado Chapter of the Columbine Poets of Colorado. “There’s lots of ways to incorporate poetry into your life, and having a month that celebrates that is fun.”

For Poem in Your Pocket Day, Wolfe hands out copies of a poem to the people she encounters that day, including her neighbors and her local barista, and puts them with any bills or mail she sends out.

“That’s a fun one,” Wolfe said.

Poem-A-Day Challenge

Loveland poet Lynn Kincanon, a member of the Metaphors, a Loveland-based poetry group, celebrated the month last year by writing a poem a day in a different form, selecting from the 500 that are available, she said. She’s doing the same thing this year.

“It lets me learn so many different forms of poetry. I’ve never heard of half of the ones I’m writing,” Kincanon said.

Kincanon, along with several other poets in Loveland, writes a poem a day as part of the national Poem-A-Day Challenge. They attended a local workshop Aug. 5, 2017, presented by Placerville, Colo., poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “Rigorous Willingness: Writing from the Unconstricted Throat” at the Loveland Public Library. Wahtola Trommer suggested poets write and share a poem a day, and I, too, joined in the challenge. Those of us who have kept with it have written about 600 poems so far.

I like the result—not only more poems in my pocket and on my laptop, but I have a closer eye. Being attuned to poetry puts me on the hunt for things to write about each day, though I do find I repeat subjects—such as the ducks and geese at the lagoon I run past on my way to the gym, my days at work and my inner landscape. I also find that my output has increased from zero or a half-dozen a month to 28 to 31.

Keeping up with Poetry

A few times along my poetry path, I, however, wanted to give up, because my daily challenge would become a week of catch-up. I would do some poetry dumping and short haikus, filling in the poem blanks. I told other poets about my poem guilt and learned that I can look at it as practice and commend myself for showing up.

At times, I have to wade through some sloppy bad poems to get to a few good ones. I find a line or two that seem like a treasure to take out and use elsewhere. I also have tried new forms and deepened my understanding of poetry’s conciseness, rhythm and ways of expression.

Lastly, my daily life from the challenge has become more about observing the little details, remembering them and crafting a poem out of my sense impressions. I’m more observant and aware. I’m searching as I live instead of just letting my environment lie still. I see, feel, hear and sense more of my world, and I’m more alive because of poetry.

As Loveland poet Maria Maldonado-Dunn, also a member of the Metaphors, said, “I think it’s so awesome we have an entire month focused on one of my passions. … It’s the best month in the whole calendar year. Poetry is not dead.”

I wrote about “Loveland poets take up Poem-A-Day Challenge,” for the Loveland Reporter-Herald. Check it out!

http://www.reporterherald.com/lifestyles/neighbors/ci_32545827/loveland-poets-take-up-poem-day-challenge